Sunday, June 3, 2007

DSM Register: SOIL - Increase Corn Acres Could Worsen Erosion

Erosion: Drive to increase corn acres could damage soil
By PERRY BEEMAN | REGISTER STAFF WRITER | Des Moines Register | June 3, 2007

Plowing trees and native grasses on land held in conservation to plant more corn will reverse decades of work to prevent crop-related pollution, scientists say.

State researchers suggest that Iowa farmers will put 500,000 acres now in the Conservation Reserve Program back into production, as a result of the demand for corn-based ethanol and rising corn prices.
"These are historic changes that have people worried about the environmental consequences," said Bruce Babcock, director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. "We will have more soil erosion, more chemical runoff and less habitat. ... There is no free lunch."


In fact, 20 pounds of soil washes away for every gallon of ethanol made, according to Duane Sand, a consultant to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit conservation and land-preservation group. His soil-loss figure is based on erosion data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Resources Inventory, and industry data on corn yields and ethanol production per bushel.


Additionally, ethanol producers' move toward making more cellulosic ethanol from cornstalks won't necessarily benefit the environment. Cornstalks help replenish the soil and sweep heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the sky, said Spencer Tomb, a biology professor at Kansas State University.

On the other hand, the switch to cellulosic, done right, could be a boon to wildlife and to water quality, various scientists have reported. Growing switchgrass or other alternative crops to make ethanol could cut soil erosion. In addition, the year-round ground cover would reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.



Anonymous said...

i hope that Iowa does not take this path of further destruction of the skin of the earth.

the prairie that is around needs to preserved and we need to take actions to restore prairie in this state.

i think the newfound interest in biofuels, which may initiate the furtherance of a very large-scale destruction of our soil, is appalling.

have we forgotten the lessons of the 1930's? The Great Depression a.k.a The Dust Bowl was a lesson that such abuse of soil will only lead to humanity's end.

top soil said...

I really enjoyed this post and im really happy you posted this!