Every farmer understands how important topsoil is. After all, 95% of our food depends on it. Unfortunately, the US is losing topsoil 10x faster than it’s being replenished. Considering it takes at least 100 years for new topsoil to develop, this is a very serious issue.
It is not, however, a new issue.
We’ve lost over half of our topsoil over the past 150 years. Much of this came in the early 1800s and late 1900s when inexperienced farmers started settling throughout the Plains region. As they removed native grasses and natural barriers to establish crop fields, soil become exposed. When drought came in 1930, the land was further weakened. Without grasslands and trees to block wind, farm fields started to be literally blown off the face of the earth.
Though regular rainfall eventually returned around 1936, and farmers initially adjusted their practices, the soil had little time to recover. By the 1970s, large scale farming had become the norm as farmers began planting fencerow to fencerow, leaving soil overly exposed once more.
If things don’t change, we could run out of soil in as little as 60 years.
Erosion is Already a Problem
In addition to the possibility of running out of topsoil, erosion causes a number of problems in the present. US agriculture loses approximately $44 billion per year due to erosion. Eroded soil also damages the surrounding environment, with much of it ending up in local water supplies. This can block waterways, pollute rivers and streams, harm local wildlife, contaminate drinking water, and cause unnatural algae blooms.
In fact, water runoff and erosion from farms are believed to be the primary causes of the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone.
What’s Causing Erosion?
There are a number of factors that contribute to soil erosion. The loss of natural habitat such as forests and grasslands continue to be an issue. Additionally, certain farming practices can weaken and/or expose soil, increasing erosion. Excessive tillage reduces soil health, density, and water-holding capabilities. Excess fertilizers can harm organic matter in soil. Overwatering also contributes to additional erosion and runoff.
While there are certainly other conditions that contribute to erosion, farming plays a large role. Additionally, farmers are the ones that are the most impacted by erosion. In other words, it’s up to farmers and the ag industry to tackle the issue of erosion.
What Can Farmers Do About It?
There are a number of actions farmers and ag companies are already taking to protect soil and reduce erosion. No-till and reduced till farming both continue to grow in popularity. Not only do they help reduce erosion, but they can also result in better yields and less work overall. Many farmers are also utilizing cover crops and buffer strips to reduce wind erosion and water runoff.
While most farmers see the advantages of these actions, they also know they come with an upfront cost. There is hope that the new administration will implement systems to help cover expenses relating to sustainable farming. In the meantime, programs like the Conservation Reserve Program offer a great way to reduce erosion and increase soil health.
By taking marginal land out of active production and establishing native vegetation, farmers can receive market-based rental payments as well as cost-share reimbursement for expenses. Before you go out and purchase seed whether it’s Pheasants Forever CRP seed or any other company be sure you know how you are going to get it planted. Many company’s like FDC Enterprises (ANS parent company) only plant seed supplied by the company that is doing the installation for quality control reasons.
If you need help enrolling, purchasing seed, and establishing CRP, our parent company can help. FDCE provides full-service CRP solutions that take care of the entire process for you including all of the reporting and paperwork. Thanks to CRP’s cost-share reimbursement, their services practically pay for themselves.
Otherwise, if you just need to purchase CRP seed mixes, All Native Seed has what you’re looking for. We provide a variety of custom seed mixes that we’ve tested across 370,000 acres of CRP establishment. Additionally, we can provide quotes on seed mixes developed by NRCS. Contact us today to get started.