Soil Erosion Decline

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced that soil erosion on cropland declined by more than 40 percent during the past 25 years, while more than one-third of all development of U.S. land occurred during the same period.

The information was contained in the latest National Resource Inventory (NRI) for Non-Federal Lands, which was released at an event marking the 75th Anniversary of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the agency charged with ensuring private lands are conserved, restored, and more resilient to environmental challenges. To see key findings please visit this website.


Celebrate Soil Erosion!

Although the effects of soil erosion can be highly destructive, the notion that only destruction comes from this sometimes unnatural event is highly illogical. The erosion of earthen soil is actually a quite common natural occurrence which has shaped the face of our planet for almost 65 million years.

Although humans have only been around for a few thousand years, water has been the primary source of this soil erosion all over the planet since time began. As seen in this short video clip, the positive effects of water erosion can be seen along the Colorado river running through Utah. Other evidence of water erosion is seen with the formation of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Soil erosion is quite a common positive occurrence, more so than it is negative.

However, man made soil erosion is erosion of a destructive nature. Steps to avoid man made soil erosion must be taken in order to ensure the survivability of healthy farmlands and fertile soil.

American Agriculture...Meet Environmental Success

Sometimes success can't be measured, or may even go un-noticed. Luckily in the case of environmental sustainability, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) makes sure that won't happen.

A new study by the NRCS finds that farmers and ranchers are producing more while using less. This is great news because it is helping to reduce the environmental footprint when it comes to food and fiber production in the US.

The study also found that soil erosion is continuing to decline because of more sustainable practices. The study finds that there has been a "50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982."

Small steps make big differences in creating sustainable practices. What are you doing to be more sustainable in your everyday life? We want you to post the steps you are taking to do your part in preventing soil erosion. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire somebody reading your comments to incorporate the same practice in their everyday life.

Remember, one small step can snowball into global change.


What is Being Done?

A number of farming practices are currently being implemented in the developed world to limit soil degradation, including using drip irrigation, planting cover crops at the end of the growing season, applying manure or other organic material to the soil, rotating crops, practicing contour cultivation, and using no-till methods. The practice of organic agriculture, which eschews pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and optimizes long-term soil fertility, is becoming more prevalent to meet consumer demand. In parts of the developing world, grassroots community action is being taken. In one region of Burkina Faso, Africa, basins are dug during the dry season and filled with compost or manure to reclaim degraded land and restore soil fertility. Sorghum yields there have increased by 400 percent. If you are not familiar with how to conserve your soil then please visit this website that can teach you how in seven easy and simple steps. Thank you for caring!


Anniversary of FDR Signing Soil Conservation Act

On this day back in 1935, FDR signed the Soil Conservation Act which established the Soil Conservation Service. This service was designed to help control floods, protect public lands, etc.

This act also helped to give farmers subsidies for planting trees, vegetables or native grasses instead of planting commerical crops.

This was a big turning point for soil erosion. It brought the issue to the forefront of society and began to show people that things needed to change in order to prevent soil erosion. Only three years after FDR signed the Soil Conservation Act, soil erosion had dropped 65 percent.

While there is still definitely work to do, FDR took the initial steps to ensure that the topic of sustainability and conservation would be around for many generations to come.

To read more check out this link:

Biosphere 2

Lack of knowledge about the intricacies of soil ecosystems was highlighted by the failure of Biosphere 2. This manmade “ecosystem,” built in Arizona, was to house eight human beings along with 4,000 species of plants and animals for two years. The technological wonder began to experience problems soon after the experiment began in 1991. By 1993, oxygen concentrations had fallen precipitously within the enclosed atmosphere. Morning glory vines, introduced to absorb excess carbon dioxide, overran other plants. Nineteen of 25 vertebrate species died off, as did all pollinators, dooming many plants to seedlessness. The majority of insects were lost, leaving ants, cockroaches, and katydids as the dominant species. Scientists still don’t understand the causes of ecosystem failure, but one guess is the imbalance of introduced soil. A high level of organic matter caused microbial populations to take off and consume the available atmospheric oxygen.
Please be aware about the delicacy of our ecosystem. Visit this web page about 20 different ways in which you can help preserve our ecosystem. Try and complete at least one a day.


Madagascar bleeding to death?

Is it true that a body of land could actualy bleed to death? Well if your talking about "bleeding" in the human sense then no, but if we're talking about bleeding in the soil sense than...yes. Madagascar is a country that relies heavily on its agriculture as a foundation for its economy. Deforestation in Madagascars central highlands has caused massive wide spread soil erosion, which in turn leads to water erosion. This water erosion is what astronauts are calling "the bleeding effect". When viewed from space, appears reddish in color and looks as if the island of Madagascar is...well bleeding.

This soil loss due to deforestation in Madagascar for about the last 50 years has resulted in a very costly 112 cubic tons per acre in some regions. And for a country that relies on its agriculture as a means for economic, thats devestating! Of course a bad situation is made worse with the seasonal tropical storms which bring heavy rainfalls. This bleeding of soil is also causing problems on the coastlines. The soil is actualy so thick along the Betsiboka estuary that, ocean going ships which used to be able to travel up the water way, are now blocked due to sediment build-up. Those ships are now forced to berth at the coastline.

These problems are of growing concern especialy to developing nations which also rely on heavy aquaculture projects, the sediment blocking and damaging the coastal regions makes it difficult and in some areas impossible.

Tips to Water Way Care

I found this article and it was very interesting how the little things can make a big difference when it comes to preventing erosion in waterways.

Here are the categories the article provides tips to in order to improve waterway erosion:

  1. Absorb or Use Rainwater
  2. Reduce Fertilizer Use
  3. Clean Up After Pets
  4. Properly Dispose of Chemicals, Waste, and Oil
  5. Be a Responsible Car Owner
  6. Become a Stream Monitor
The article will provide a deeper explanation of these categories with helpful tips so you can do your part on waterway/soil erosion.

I recently traveled I-84 leaving Portland, OR and heading to Boise, ID. The columbia gorge is a marvelous wonderment of rock formations, trees, soil, and waterfalls. It was amazing to see how much erosion is taking place due to a myriad of factors, including water breaking down rocks, soil, and trees. The wear and tear of nature combined with the tourists who are littering, picnicking, and generally not taking very good care of the land are having a profound effect on speeding up this erosion process.

This acceleration of land deterioration was more evident in the high traffic areas such as Multnomah Falls and other tourist attractions along the Interstate. Once you travelled past the areas where people have little or no access to, the cliff-sides off the gorge, while still looking a bit eroded, had very clearly been eroding at a slower pace.

The link to the article posted provides great information to help keep our land and waterways clear and help prevent less erosion. Following the tips provided in the article will not only help preserve the land, it will help teach the future generations to not only learn land conservation but also show them how beautiful the earth can be if we just take the time to nurture it.

The Soil Food Web

Excessive application of chemicals by farmers or spills and leaks of petroleum products and toxic substances by other users kill soil organisms. Soil is a complex living food web, where a variety of organisms interact to process organic matter, recycle nutrients, and nurture plants. Please use organic fertilizers and organic methods for pest management.

According to soil scientist Elaine Ingham at Oregon State University, just one gram of healthy agricultural soil contains around 100 yards of threadlike fungal material, 100 million bacteria, tens of thousands of one-celled organisms called protozoa, and up to 2000 tiny worms called nematodes. Growth of plants depends upon the presence of these microorganisms, which interact to retain nutrients and make nitrogen available. Higher up the food chain are the springtails and mites that prey on fungi. Larger still are the earthworms, ants, termites, millipedes, and beetles that fragment the organic debris, aerate the soil, and form channels for infiltration of water.

If you want healthier plants then support your soil food web by putting organic matter, which increases the population of beneficial soil organisms, in your soil medium. Please support the fight against soil quality and erosion by visiting where you can find lots of detail information about the kinds of beneficial soil organisms.


Composting boosts plant growth

Its a little known fact that using fertilizer made from kitchen scraps such as left over vegetables and fruits, and other grown plants can produce amazing results when it comes to the growth and developement of healthy plants.

Compost can be purchased at most local home and garden stores, but the best way to produce this "natural plant steriod" is to make your own, its easy! All a compost pile is decomposing organic scraps from plants. This decomposition, in order to get fully deveoped must be mixed with regular soil in order to produce the rich composition that can help plants grow. Essentialy what you have in the end is alot of rich soil which came from eroded soil and left over kitchen scraps.
The mass usage of compost is essential for farmers who have a very wide area to cover when growing crops. If this type of soil recycling is not used, soil erosion can happen and can make life very difficult for that particular farm.
By Jake Haworth
Canadian scientists have recently found that compost in their potato fields has helped to prevent soil erosion and improve water retention. The findings come just as Canada celebrates "Soil Conservation Week."

With the addition of the compost to the potato fields in Canada, crops have yielded higher returns, soil quality has improved, and water drainage has also improved. These findings are significant because they may lead to a reduction in soil erosion throughout crops all over the world. However, according to Canadian scientist Linnel Edwards, "People would have to be willing to change and think with a greener mentality."

In a society where consumerism is largely the end all, do you think people will adopt this new way of thinking green? Or do you feel that only a few select regions in the country or world will feel that way?

Here is the link to the Canadian Article:

Clear Cutting, Landslides and Soil Erosion

Scientists have studied the causes of landslides since the mid-1960s. Nearly every research study indicates that clear-cut timber harvesting increases the likelihood of landsliding on steep and unstable hillsides (from two to 31 times) and the erosion caused by landsliding (from two to 41 times), compared with uncut forests. These results appear to show general agreement that clear-cutting increases the incidence of landslides.
Limiting clear cutting to strip-clear cutting or even better "high-grading" selective cutting, can help prevent landslides and subsequent soil erosion.
To read more click "source" below.

Soil Degradation

Approximately 65 percent of the earth’s soils are degraded to some extent. The primary causes are overgrazing, removal of vegetation, and agricultural practices. When land is overgrazed or deforested or when crops are harvested, there is often not enough plant litter remaining to protect and nourish the soil. Soil organisms die, resulting in a loss of fertility. Sparse cover allows raindrops to erode the surface, loosening the soil’s structure, freeing up fine clay particles, and transporting them downhill. Repeated mechanical tilling changes the structure of the soil so it erodes more easily, and compaction by heavy farm equipment reduces water infiltration and increases runoff. Nutrients are also lost when farmers fail to allow fallow periods or to replenish the soil.


Loss of Topsoil

The rate of soil erosion now vastly exceeds soil formation. Soil is washed away ten times faster than it is replenished in the US and 50 times faster in China and India. In some areas of the Great Plains, agricultural topsoil has decreased in thickness from 12 inches to less than four inches. As a result of erosion in the last 40 years, 30 percent of the world's arable land has become unproductive. Just as it takes hundreds of years for a clear-cut forest to return to an old growth state, an inch of topsoil can take 500 years to form, and at least six inches are needed for crop production.

Where land is dry and bare, soil is easily eroded by winds. Americans are familiar with the 1930's Dust Bowl of the Great Plains, which took place after years of over plowing followed by successive droughts. The same phenomenon occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and is now frequent in northern Africa and China. In 2001, the western US was blanketed with dust from a huge storm in China and Mongolia.

Human Induced Soil Degradation

Humans commonly partake in activities that lead to degradation of the worlds land resources. These resources are the basis of sustained food security. According to The Global Assessment of Human-Induced Soil Degradation (GLASOD) "damage has occurred on 15 percent of the world's total land area, mainly resulting from erosion, nutrient decline, salinization and physical compaction." The results of these impacts has led to reduction in crop yields. The impact of degraded soil may have the greatest affect on countries who are dependent on agriculture for their incomes.


Dirty Water? You May Be In Contempt of Court...

The water quality in the Florida Everglades is so poor that a judge nearly issued a contempt of court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency due to "its failure to stem mounting pollution in the Florida Everglades."

The Everglades are so polluted that they are in violation of the EPA's Clean Water Act. This not only affects the wildlife and plants in the Everglades, it also affects the citizens of Florida who may fish or drink this water. Some feel government regulation may be too strict, however without government regulation who knows how bad the water would actually be.

The main concern with polluted water in any part of the country or world is that the water on earth needs to be maintained and sustainable in order to keep being recycled and used for watering the food we eat, water for drinking, or even water for bathing.

What is your opinion on government regulations regarding water? Do you think there is too much regulation, or maybe not enough?

Please take a quick moment to take our survey:

Other links:

Consumption Surpasses Production for Grain

Increases in grain production brought about by irrigation and synthetic fertilizer-pesticide inputs have peaked and begun declining. As consumption surpasses production, the world's stocks of stored grain have been falling relative to each year's use. When supply can no longer meet demand, free market price competition may starve the poor.


Arable land v.s. World Population

Biodiversity and especially the maintenance of wild relatives of domesticated species is essential to sustainable agriculture.


EcoMerge Soil Mission Statement

Our newly identified mission statement:

"Our Mission is to educate and inform citizens on the causes and effects of soil erosion and related issues, in order to empower individuals, communities, and the public. We work to encourage environmental stewardship on the personal level as well as at the community level."

Preventing Soil Erosion, but at what cost?

Genetically modified crops are being planted in farmlands at an accelerated rate. This is due to all of the supposed benefits associated with them. For example:
  • Lower costs of production

  • Fewer weeds

  • More abundance and sustainable

  • Less Soil erosion

  • Cleaner Water

  • Less carbon being emitted into the atmosphere
While all of these benefits are amazing in creating a lower polluted, more sustainable planet, we have to ask ourselves "what are we paying for this trade off?" There have been no conclusive studies as to the long term effects of consuming genetically modified foods. There need to be more tests conducted and more reports issued.
The population has been consuming genetically modified foods, sometimes without their knowledge, so we need to start the conversation of "is there a long term effect on humans who eat this food and if there is, is the trade off small enough to justify the continuation of planting these crops?"
Do you know how much of your food consumption contains genetically modified foods? I would love your opinion on this topic and potential ways to create more awareness in order to have a healthy life as well as a healthy planet.
Here is a link for an interesting video on the subject:

Causes of Soil Degredation

Activities that increase soil degradation include, overgrazing, agricultural activities, deforestation, overexploitation of land to produce fuel wood, and industrialization.



The Portland metro area is abuzz with “Urban Farming.” Forward thinking Portlanders are tearing out lawns for vegetable gardens, raising chickens, keeping bees, and harvesting fruit. It seems everywhere you look you see cedar garden boxes on front lawns, and in many neighborhoods you can hear the chickens clucking. This trend has received much media attention in local papers including the Oregonian and local news channels.
This local trend serves many purposes. Portlanders are thinking differently about the use of the small city plots; they see the potential for food harvest, the impact of lawn chemicals and the waste of critical “green” space. Using urban plots for food production helps reduce soil erosion by the planting of trees, the reduction in concrete and water runoff, and forces city dwellers to think of their land as part of the larger ecosystem. Many locals are thinking of their traditional roots in self-sufficiency and rekindling interest to cope with the current economic state.
There are many local organizations and resources to assist in becoming a more aware land user and to promote urban farming:
The Portland Permaculture Guild promotes sustainable practices of harvesting food and living on the earth. They provide monthly educational meetings, workshops, and related activities.
Growing Gardens is a local non-profit organization that helps low-income families and community partners to utilize urban land for food production.
The Portland Farmers’ Market is a local organization that brings local produce straight from the farmer to the public. Many of the farmers use sustainable practices that help maintain soil quality.
Community Gardens is a program through the Portland Parks and Recreation that allows for individuals who do not have a garden plot to access public or private land to produce food and harvest excess fruit. 503-823-1612
For interest outside the Portland metro area, contact your local farmer’s market . coop grocery store, nursery supply store, or an established gardener in your area.

Croplands In Decline

Due to the pressure of human activities, the worlds croplands are in decline. Population growth is the leading cause for this. The following picture shows the total available area of the worlds croplands.

The yellow line in the picture shows the cropland area per person. It has shown a decline between 20 and 30% in the 30 years from 1960 to 1991.

Link to Information

The Dust Bowl

The Dust Bowl was a period of severe drought in the United States from 1931 - 1939. During that time farmers lands were receiving sever wind-driven soil erosion by overgrazed rangeland and improper use of farming practices not adapted to the Great Plains. The causing factors of the Dust Bowl was years of farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques that prevent erosion.

The result of the soil erosion was major ecological and agricultural damage which made the Great Plains inhabitants unbearable. The Dust Bowl was an ecological and human disaster caused by the misuse of land and years of sustained drought. Millions of acres of farmland became useless and thousands of people were forced to leave their homes.

As bad as it was then, it is still bad now. Individuals are still practicing techniques that are destructive to the ecology and agriculture in the U.S and around the world. If you like to eat food then soil quality and erosion is still a valid concern.

Link to Article (PDF)

Challenges in soil and water conservation

I found this article about challenges in soil and water conservation. It discusses how civilizations have thrived or collapsed due to either having or not having productive soil and clean water. This article should make you think about how not ensuring the renewability of the land will effect everyone, not just the land owner. After reading this article, think about ways in which unproductive soil would effect your life.

This article deals with how crop residue removal is creating a negative effect on soil as well as overall environmental quality. A new study conducted suggests that “crop residue removal can make no-till soils a source rather than a sink of atmospheric carbon.”

This is an important bit of information because thinking about residue removal sounds like it would be more environmentally friendly because you are “removing” the toxins. However this latest study suggests that we as a society need to change the way we deal with these soil and water issues in order to create an environmentally friendly and sustainable water and soil source.

In addition to talking about the new study, it also does a nice job of providing a potential alternative to crop residue removal.

Aside from alternatives the article mentions, in what ways do you think we as a society would be able to effectively remove these toxins from the soil without causing more harm to the environment?

Soil Erosion Vocabulary List

Soil Erosion Vocabulary
Soil erosion- The wearing away of the land surface by water, wind, ice, gravity or other natural or anthropogenic agents that abrade, detach and remove soil particles or rock material from one point on the earth's surface, for deposition elsewhere, including gravitational creep and so-called tillage erosion.
Soil degradation is when soil deteriorates because of human activity and loses its quality and productivity. (is not the same as soil erosion)
Soil conservation-is the management of soil to prevent its destruction. Soil can be destroyed very quickly by wind and water erosion, but forms very slowly (many decades per centimeter of soil)
Humus-is a dark-colored substance that forms as plant and animal remains decay.
Loam-a well-draining soil that is made up of about equal parts of clay, sand and silt.
Landslide-a general term for a mass movement landform and a process characterized by moderately rapid to rapid (greater than 30 cm per year) downslope transport by means of gravitational stresses, of a mass of rock and regolith that may or may not be water saturated.
Soil Horizon-A soil horizon is a layer of soil that differs in color and texture from the layers above or below it. There are three different basic soil horizons: A, B and C. The topmost “A” horizon is made of topsoil, a mixture of humus and clay. The “B” horizon is called subsoil, with little humus and some weathered rock. The “C” horizon contains partly weathered rock.
Topsoil-is a crumbly, dark brown soil that is a mixture of humus, clay and other minerals. It is the best soil for plant growth
Loess-material transported and deposited by wind and consisting of predominantly silt-sized particles, forming important fertile soils
•Subsoil-is a soil that usually exists below the topsoil. It has little humus, and in primarily a mix of weathered rock, sand and clay that washed down from the topsoil above
Sediment-is the material moved by erosion.
Natural erosion-the influence of climatic forces on the surface of the earth.
Deposition-occurs when the agents of erosion (wind, water, ice and gravity) lay down sediment in a new location, such as in a river delta.
Sedimentation-process of depositing sediment from water runoff.
Deforestation-removal of trees from a forested area without adequate replanting
Silt-A sedimentary material consisting of very fine particles intermediate in size between sand and clay
Laterization-The result of deforestation in tropical forests, the protective and restorative forest layer above the soil are removed and the ground becomes extremely hard and cannot be penetrated by germinating forest seeds, so recolonization is slow or absent.
Land-use planning-Process for deciding the best present and future use of each parcel of land in an area
Slump-is the rapid movement of a mass of soil and rock downhill as a single unit.
Creep-is the very slow movement of soil and rock down a slope.
Contour plowing-is a soil conservation technique in which fields are plowed parallel to the contour lines of slopes, so that water cannot easily run downhill and erode the soil.
Conservation plowing-is a soil conservation technique in which crop stalks and weeds are left in place over the winter after crops are harvested, so that the stalks and weeds will hold the soil in place and decay into humus.
Leaching-removal of soluble materials from one zone in soil to another via water movement in the profile.
Eutrophication-bodies of water that receive excess nutrients stimulating excessive plant growth.
Riparian-the transition zone between a waterway and the land environment
Conservation tillage-crop cultivation in which the soil is disturbed little (minimum-tillage farming) or not at all (no-till farming) to reduce soil erosion, lower labor costs, and save energy.
Sustainable agriculture-food growing methods which maintain soil productivity and minimize long term impacts on the environment
Runoff-water that moves too quickly to be absorbed into the ground.
Turbidity-measures the relative clarity of water
Infiltration - flow of water from the land surface into the subsurface.
Permeability - the ability of a material to allow the passage of a liquid, such as water through rocks. Permeable materials, such as gravel and sand allow water to move quickly through them, whereas impermeable material, such as clays, don't allow water to flow freely.
Saturated - completely full, as ground water is an area within a rock layer that is completely filled or saturated with water.
Desertification-degradation of once fertile land into non-productive land
Weathering-the process that breaks down rock andother substances on Earth’s surface.
“Dust Bowl”-was an area in the prairies of the west-central United States, where drought conditions and plowing in the 1930’s caused a severe loss of topsoil.
Overburden-Layer of soil and rock overlying a mineral deposit, removed during surface mining
Sustainable agriculture-method of growing crops and raising livestock based on organic fertilizers, soil conservation, water conservation, biological control of pests, and minimal use of non-renewable fossil-fuel energy
Gully erosion-where water concentrates in channels too deep to smooth over by tilling
•Stream bank /shoreline erosion -the saturated sides of running streams tumble into the moving water below.
Accelerated erosion-human disturbance of the land from construction or industrial processes that contribute to or cause erosion
Mulching-applying organic material to the ground and hillsides to form a temporary protective soil cover. Mulching helps maintain soil integrity and aid in seedling emergence.
Tackifier- a resinous material that is added to mulches or seed slurries to hold fibers together and to keep them from washing or blowing away.