Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

‘Losing Ground’ study points to erosion problems throughout Iowa

Back to Leopold Letter Fall 2011

The Environmental Working Group’s report “Losing Ground” uses data from new, precise technologies to show how Iowa’s important soil resource is washing away. Rick Cruse, director of the Iowa Water Center, spoke about the report at an Iowa Learning Farms webinar in August.


“Crisis is a strong word, but I think it fits this situation,” Cruse said. In 2007, six million acres across Iowa eroded at twice the assumed “sustainable” rate of five tons per acre per year.  That accounts only for sheet and rill erosion, not for the ephemeral gullies that appear in farmland during heavy rains. Moreover, research from ISU and EWG suggests that a truly sustainable level of erosion could be closer to a half-ton per acre per year.

One answer to curbing erosion lies in keeping more cover in the ground with longer crop rotations or perennial plants. “If we can implement the diversity with modern-day technology I’m convinced we could cut the erosion rates that we see more than 50 percent - and produce just as much,” Cruse said.

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Back to Leopold Letter Fall 2011