Soil Erosion and Its Monetary Cost
The modernized food industry has pushed farming practices to the back burner in the eyes of consumers. Still, the majority of our food comes from the land. That being said, the issue of soil erosion isn’t making front pages, but amongst those that lobby around organic farming and environmental health issues have identified the degradation as increasingly problematic. In order to help the problem, activists are looking for help from the government and policy regulators to aid in the protection of farmland. However, most feel that the topic is tired out amongst those that should care the most, and because of that the urgency to gain awareness is crucial.
Soil erosion is a naturally occurring process that can affect all types of landforms. In agriculture specifically, the topsoil is worn away by water, wind, or human practices like tilling. The process of soil erosion includes detachment, movement, and deposition. The topsoil, which is the most nutrient part of the soil, removes itself and eventually is carried off-site. The process reduces the productivity of the soil and can actually hurt surrounding ecosystems as well.
Dr. David Lobb of the University of Manitoba recently completed a study to show that $3.1 billion worth of crop capacity has been lost due to soil erosion. Lobb identified practices like tilling, mouldboard plowing, chisel plows, and hoe drills to be some of the leading factors in soil degradation, as well as easily preventable ones. Lobb focuses his research within the Canadian borders and has identified that the adoption of no-till farming has significantly reduced the soil erosion due to wind in Western Canada, but in Eastern Canada, the fight against till-farming continues. Ontario’s rates for no-till farming is declining due to how hard it is to keep up with farms that use some tillage.
Farmers utilize the tillage practice because of its effectiveness in controlling weeds, killing the previous year’s crops, and integrating manure. An organic farmer from Ontario, Ken Laing, discusses what he is calling the “new soil health paradigm”. In an effort to save our soil, he aims for practices that leave zero bare soil, reduces drastically or eliminates tillage altogether, and encourages soil to be filled with cover crops. Laing, along with the rest of the farming community agrees that reducing tillage will be one of the greatest challenges. “We forget that agriculture is the foundation of our civilization. Agriculture saved us once with green revolution, but it needs to save us again from unintended issues of the green revolution.”
Greig, John. “Soil Erosion Costs $3.1 Billion in Losses.” The Western Producer, www.producer.com/2017/09/soil-erosion-costs-3-1-billion-in-losses/.
“Soil Erosion- Cause and Effects .” Soil Erosion Causes and Effects, Ontario- Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/12-053.htm.