The ‘quiet crisis,’ otherwise known as soil loss, can be extremely damaging to crop yields across the United States.
According to CropLife, researchers at The Ohio State University’s Columbus campus have been working on a major study that could affect 4 billion acres of the planet.
Ohio State soil scientist Rattan Lal, leader of the study and University Professor of Soil Science in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), found that topsoil erosion, in addition to decreasing crop productivity, is leading to major environmental issues, including the release greenhouse gasses. The researchers did find, however, that topsoil can be rebuilt in order to prevent and even reverse soil loss.
“The general statement is that forming one inch of topsoil may take thousands of years,” added Lal. “[Erosion-caused crop yield losses] may not be recognized until crop production is no longer economically viable.”
Conservative estimates report between 30% and 50% of crop yields are attributed to natural or synthetic commercial fertilizer. In Minnesota, famers are actually using too much fertilizer in order to combat crop yield issues, but regulators are attempting to put an end to over fertilization.
According to The Free Press, farmers in Minnesota are using 10% to 15% more fertilizer than they need to for maximizing crop yields, which has lead to statewide drinking water being increasingly contaminated with nitrogen.
Governor Mark Dayton announced that the governments proposed regulations would require farmers to limit fertilizer use without sacrificing their yields. If the majority of the state’s agricultural workers ignore these requests or fail to make any progress, mandatory measures would be implemented several years down the line.
“This is a good step,” added Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “It’s a modest step, but it sets up a good framework.”