Be Loyal to Those Who Protect the Soil

Soil is one of the fundamental aspects that makes agriculture possible. However, agriculture is now one of the leading causes of soil erosion. Soil erosion is usually driven one of two main forces: wind and water. The clearing and conversion of natural forests or grasslands into farmlands has significantly increased the occurrence of water erosion. The original vegetation in these areas provided many different services for the soil such as shelter from rain water, stability through a system of deep roots, and nutrients from falling leaves and the organisms living in the ecosystem. Crops, however, are generally planted in rows which leave strips of the land bare and vulnerable to rill erosion. Rill erosion is water driven erosion concentrated in small channels, but under extreme weather conditions these channels can turn into deep grooves etched in the earth. Since crops are only present in a field for the length of their growing season, their roots do not run nearly as deep as the vegetation’s they replace. While farmers have found a way to use chemical fertilizers to replace the nutrients the original vegetation provided the soil, it is not as ideal as soil’s natural composition.

The increasing occurrence of soil erosion has taken its toll on agricultural production. Soil erosion limits the ability of soils to hold water and nutrients, which impacts both the quality and quantity of crop yields. In extreme cases, entire sections of crops have even been carried away along with the top soil. Aside from on site impacts, it is important to understand that soil erosion essentially transports soil from one place to another and therefore poses a myriad of off site impacts as well. Water based soil erosion, which carries soil from farmland toward neighboring bodies of water such as lakes, streams, rivers, or even oceans, causes eutrophication and siltation, threatening the species living in these ecosystems.

As the human population grows, the need for more food increases as well. This leads to economic incentives for farmers to produce as much as possible within each growing season. To do this many farmers have turned to planting crops right up to riverbanks, rather than leaving an advisable buffer of natural vegetation. Without this buffer, the risk of soil erosion is further increased. It’s ironic that as farmers rush to produce more food they are actually threatening not only our agricultural produce, but also aquatic food sources such as fish. Sadly, the solution here is not as simple as it may seem. Farmers have resorted to these methods of production in order to stay afloat in the competitive economy. In order to not drive the farmers who, choose the sustainable methods of production out of business, the government should enact a policy that forces all farmers to adopt sustainable practices. In the meantime, supporting local farmers who already practice sustainable agriculture can help diminish the risk of soil erosion.

– Carly LeMoine


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