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Soil, water conservation imperative

Published: Monday, June 24, 2013 11:20 a.m. CST

The week of the 9th it rained virtually every day, while the week of the 16th, no rain.  Such is not out of the ordinary, for that historical trend is surely the norm in years to come.  Inevitably, there will be those years where little precipitation occurs, and years where the opposite is true.  Such is expected.

This being the case, it is therefore by man’s own actions when those extremely wet years result in devastating flooding in sections of the state.  The key is to work together, rural and urban alike, to improve those environmental conditions which cause precipitation to leave the land, and be diverted immediately into storm sewers in municipal areas and creeks in the country, causing massive volumes of water to access the drainage ways at one time.

Historically, Iowa’s population was spread across the state, and small towns had a greater population than today.  During the last three decades, small-town Iowa has greatly diminished, with the loss of mom and pop small businesses being eaten alive by big business.  Jobs are in the cities, and thus we have experienced resultant urban sprawl.  Sprawl takes land out of production, eliminates much of the natural wetlands along the rivers, causes the removal of timber, and results in more concrete and asphalt.  That is exactly why Cedar Rapids and Iowa City took such a big hit from the Cedar River a few years ago.  Upstream from both cities the ever changing land use from natural landscape and agriculture to housing and related services and big business changed the dynamics of the nature’s way.  City streets were added as the rural land was annexed, and huge parking lots built at the mega multi-purpose shopping malls.  The result is obvious.

With the high monetary value of corn and soybeans, there is no question that segments of farmland are being farmed that should be left in pasture, alfalfa or non-row crop vegetation.  Filter strips of native grasses are necessary along the creeks that bisect the farms.  This traps the water and silt, and acts as a sponge in retaining water a while longer before entering the stream.  Grassed waterways, silt ponds, terraces, and a variety of other soil and water retention farm land practices will extensively reduce the rapid runoff and loss of soil to the delta in the Gulf of Mexico. Our marshland is extra valuable, for each acre will retain a million gallons of water.

Add to the above the changes we have all observed in agriculture in recent years.  Technology is now an integral component of how our farmers farm.  That is good, for the on-board computer is programmed to advise the exact positioning in the field, and relay the needs of the land for specific application of nutrients into the soil.  Production is enhanced, with over application of fertilizer greatly diminished.  This is not only a cost savings, but more important, reduces the volume of nutrients that are carried from the land by excessive run-off into our rivers and lakes.

It’s apparent the problem is not one sided.  Reality is everyone has contributed to the problem, and thus everyone has to partner in the solution.  Our future, as a society, depends on it.

Any questions or comments, call me at 515-975-8608.

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