Soil loss numbers to ponder

Iowa Learning Farms and the Conservation Station traveled to Sioux County yesterday to present as part of a field day sponsored by Farmers Elevator Coop, Farmers Coop Society, and Hull Coop.  185 people were on site to hear about current issues related to crop hybrids, pest management, herbicide resistance, and of course CONSERVATION!

ILF staff presented jointly with Joel DeJong, ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomist in northwest Iowa, focusing on soil loss and the variety of conservation practices available to help protect this valuable resource.    Attendees first got to see the rainfall simulator in action, then DeJong transitioned to a local perspective through the use of photographs taken this spring combined with data from the Iowa Daily Erosion Project.

ISUEO field agronomist Joel De Jong shows field day attendees an image taken this May in the local area illustrating soil erosion and deposition.

ISUEO field agronomist Joel DeJong shows field day attendees an image taken this May illustrating soil erosion and deposition in a local field, a sight that was all too common given the heavy rains!

DeJong also tried to put soil erosion into perspective by using some numbers.  Field day attendees were encouraged to get out their smartphones to do a few calculations.  Here’s one that I found quite thought-provoking:

Average corn yield across Iowa = 175 bu/ac
(175 bu/ac)*(56 lb/bu)*(1 ton/2000 lb) = 4.9 tons of corn being produced per acre planted per year

Compare this to the average rate of soil erosion…   5 tons of topsoil being lost (exported) per acre per year

So, comparing those numbers head-to-head, more soil is being lost than grain is being produced on each acre of Iowa land.  And those numbers don’t even include gully erosion.  Some food for thought for a Friday afternoon….

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