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How Farmers Can Save Soil • Family and Farming

How Farmers Can Save Soil

I have to warn you that some of the photos in this post are disturbing. 

We woke up Friday to a tornado warning and spent an hour in the basement. And then it rained heavily on very saturated soil, causing fields to flood. Except ours, as they were protected with waterways and buffer strips. 

Field Waterways & Buffer Strips

Looking at our fields we see our waterways handled the excess water very well. We are pleased to see that there is no soil washing down into our ditches or toward our creek. If you look at the featured photo above of our fields, you see a zig-zag of green grass. These waterways are 30-40 feet across, planted with a “waterway mix” of Orchard Grass, Brome Grass and Timothy Grass, for a total of 5-6 acres of waterways and buffer strips on our farm. Here’s a blog post with details about our waterways.

Soil Erosion

We take a neighborhood tour to survey possible damage. We don’t like what we see. The soil devastation we see is disheartening, with deep ruts of soil flowing into the ditch. Our neighbor is only one example. We have no idea why they wouldn’t use the practice of waterways and buffer strips, but we know these conservation practices are helpful. There are many farmers across the world who don’t have waterways and buffer strips to conserve soil. I’m assuming world-wide soil loss is unbelievable. It’s hard to fathom isn’t it? 

Soil run off after a heavy rain.
I warned you. This is a disturbing photo of soil and water run-off.

Waterways are designed to follow the curves of the land and the flow of water, to slow and divert water, to keep soil in the fields. Without waterways, when there is lots of rainwater, fields turn into muddy streams, pulling soil into rushing water, to flow into creeks, that pour into streams, and then rivers, pulling away soil to never return. That soil is gone forever. 

Soil loss after a heavy rain running into a ditch
If you look toward the top of this photo, there are twin rivers of soil running into the ditch from the same area. Keep reading to see how waterways, buffer strips & CRP are effective ways to solve this problem.
Severe Soil Run Off
This is perhaps the most disturbing photo of soil and water run-off. Same farmer, different field.

What Are Some Additional Ways to Protect Soil?

The question you may ask, “Are farmers required to install and maintain waterways to keep their soil from eroding away?” Not really.

There is a CRP program (Conservation Reserve Program) that our farm has been enrolled in since the 1990’s, with around 24 acres set aside to protect the creek that runs through our farm. 

This creek takes in the water that drains down from our farm and many other farms surrounding our area. This creek then feeds into a small river, that ultimately flows into the Mississippi. 

Farmland CRP photo
This is a photo of part of the creek area we have enrolled into CRP. There is a wide swath of grass and trees that line both sides of the creek that runs through our farm. The water that drains from the fields featured in the previous photos runs through this creek.

Buffer Strips in Action

Soil conservation buffer strip in a farm field
Our buffer strip is to the left of the fence line. This was put in to stop soil erosion from excess water run-off. Our children used to ride their bikes up and down this “safe from the road” area.

We drive down the road to make sure our buffer strips have held our soil and stopped water properly. Buffer strips are designed to stop soil and water from flowing into the ditch. This buffer strip is about 20-25 feet wide running from one end of our farm to our building site. The buffer strip has held and there is nothing to see in the ditch. 

Soil conservation buffer strip
Do you see how the water was stopped by the buffer strip? No lost soil here!

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” It’s hard to watch soil loss happen in front of our eyes. We can only hope that others can see this loss and try to stop this destruction before any more topsoil washes away.

Be Blessed!

Love to hear what you think!