Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Raping The Land?
"CORYDON, Iowa – The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America’s push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. When President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”
But the ethanol era has proved far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and contaminated water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have been converted.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil. Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.
In South Dakota, for instance, farmers planted 1.3 million more acres of corn last year than they did the year before the ethanol mandate was passed. More than 400,000 acres of conservation land were lost."
We have the tools now to keep this from happening without banning corn based ethanol. Corydon, Iowa is a great place to no-till and cover cropping is catching on. Dakota Lakes Research Farm has been a leader in crop rotation and no-till practices for over 20 years.
The market place always has final say on planted acres and intentions. If it looks like a farmer can make a profit on a crop, they plant it. Most farmers are going to plant something on their land, the prices and programs swing acres one way or the other.
Still, our yield levels are pretty flat the past five or more years. We have the technology to farm "marginal acres" well.
Are we doing that? Will we do it?