Saturday, June 15, 2013

Soil Loss

Our young friend Cody threw out a good topic for this blog, Soil Loss.  "Soil Loss. NRCS "acceptable range" was 2 ton/ac/year when I worked for them. I always thought that 2 tons was still a heck of a lot. I have never ran any figures, but if you could put a price on the nutrients lost/acre/year I bet it would be an eye opener- especially if you compared no till with covers to conventional tillage. Can you put a value on organic matter? Would the quality of organic matter vary from place to place?"

That is an excellent but very difficult question to answer.  I was taught that a well managed notill farm still had up to a ton of soil loss per acre per year.  Yes, that is a heck of a lot of topsoil to go into our tributaries, 2000 lbs of the best soil we have, lost each year, even doing a good job!

With tillage, that figure goes to 10 tons or 20,000 lbs per acre per year very easily.  That is not tolerable to me.  It's not good for my farm, my country or my kids and their future.  Soil loss is heavy again this spring with heavy rains here and worse in much of the Midwest.  Are we entering the tipping point?  Is some of the blame of the three year national slide in yield due to soil loss?  I think the main problem is our narrowing yet contaminated gene pool in our seed which made the weather look more to blame than it was.  A declining soil base to handle crop production at high levels could be third.

How bad is the soil loss in your area this year?  Do you think we have lost too much topsoil?  Are we doing all we can to prevent it?  I have noticed the tributaries are still brown here and were muddy this last big rain we had this week as that storm rolled across the northern tier and touched our area with an inch or more in one overnight storm.

I still remember Dr. Jerry Hatfield talking about the soil loss in one inch rain over 24 hours last year in Iowa.  He called it a slow soaker and yet he saw the tons of soil loss the equations and pictures predicts.

We struggle to put a value on the organic matter or how it varies place to place.  Many farmers will sell off the straw that could be organic matter on their farm in the next month.  Livestock men need the straw but how do we redistribute that properly with manure applications?

I guess I've raised more questions from Cody's question than I answered.

Ed Winkle

3 comments:

  1. Soil loss has been bad here. Glad I nottilled all but one field. The notill washed as the crop wasn't big enough to hold the soil. Where I planted into a failed double crop bean field my residual chem didnt work as good from all the ground cover.

    I have sold straw and planted beans behind the wheat....it seems to get the beans a better chance. Last year I fed all of the straw to the cows.....the straw with corn syurip and. Molasses was better feed then the crp bales...

    Terraces are popular here but require maintence to move dirt back to the right spots. Seems more and more are drove over the wrong direction because planters are so big and everyone is in a hurry.

    I would like to have a trencher and put in oversized pipe and check damns. I did that here at the house but its slow diging everything in with a back how attachment on a skid loader.

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  2. People have no idea where and how much erosion there is across the country. I have some small sections of sheet erosion in my lawn under my oak trees where grass doesn't grow well. I fight it with lime and creeping red fescue. Imagine all the lawns and pastures of the country added to cropland like yours.

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