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Johanns announces 43% decline in cropland erosion

Agriculture.com Staff 05/23/2006 @ 9:17am

Cropland erosion is on the decline, according to an announcement yesterday from Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. He said that according to USDA's National Resources Inventory (NRI), total soil erosion on cultivated and non-cultivated cropland in the U.S. decreased 43% between 1982 and 2003, sheet and rill erosion decreased 42%, and wind erosion decreased 44%.

"This remarkable decrease in soil erosion can be attributed to the extraordinary efforts by America's private landowners to conserve and protect agricultural lands," said Johanns. "This report underscores the value of cooperative conservation through partnerships with our farmers and ranchers, who are among the best stewards of the land."

Nationwide, sheet and rill erosion -- which is the removal of layers of soil by rainfall and runoff -- on cropland dropped from 4 tons per acre per year in 1982 to 2.6 tons per acre per year in 2003. Wind erosion rates also dropped from 3.3 to 2.1 tons per acre per year.

The data also shows that 72% of the nation's cropland was eroding below soil loss tolerance rates, compared to 60% in 1982. Highly Erodible Land (HEL) being cropped is down to about 100 million acres, compared to 124 million acres in 1982. HEL and non-HEL cropland acreage eroding above soil loss tolerance rates declined 35% and 45%, respectively.

The Missouri and the Souris-Red-Rainy/Upper Mississippi River Basins -- making up approximately 50% of U.S. cropland -- experienced the most significant reductions in total erosion from 1982 to 2003. In the Missouri River Basin, which includes sections of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, and all of Nebraska, the average rate of soil erosion fell 3 tons per acre per year.

The Souris-Red-Rainy/Upper Mississippi River Basin, which includes sections of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, fell 2.5 tons per acre per year.

The NRI, conducted by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in cooperation with Iowa State University, shows that the total tons of soil erosion declined in all major river basins. The study also shows a downward trend in both sheet and rill erosion and wind erosion continued through 2003.

The NRI is an assessment of soil erosion, land cover and use, prime farmland soils, wetlands, habitat diversity, selected conservation practices and related resources . Data is gathered from 800,000 sample sites on non-federal land in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and some Pacific Basin locations.

For more information on the results of the cropland erosion study, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/NRI. For soils information, visit http://soils.usda.gov/.

Cropland erosion is on the decline, according to an announcement yesterday from Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. He said that according to USDA's National Resources Inventory (NRI), total soil erosion on cultivated and non-cultivated cropland in the U.S. decreased 43% between 1982 and 2003, sheet and rill erosion decreased 42%, and wind erosion decreased 44%.

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