Soil loss due to water erosion reduces crop yields and reduces nutritional value of the foods grown. Good management of soil and water resources is the best way to prevent soil from being washed away. There are well-known methods of farming which will help to maintain soils, but they must be used deliberately. For example, crop rotation, terracing, and plowing around hills rather than up and down (see picture) to slow erosion. Unfortunately, these methods take more time and effort and are simply more difficult to do with highly automated equipment; therefore, large agribusiness operations are hesitant to use them even though it would be in its best interests, long-term.
Snowmelt and rainfall are the driving forces for water erosion. Bare soils are very vulnerable to erosion. Steep slopes and long, uninterrupted slopes are especially prone to water erosion especially when plowed up and down the slope. Silty soils, soils low in organic matter, and soils with an impermeable subsoil layer are also more susceptible to water erosion. The harder soil is used and reused without crop rotation, the lower it becomes in organic matter and essential nutrients; therefore, more susceptible to erosion. Once topsoil is gone it is very hard to reestablish, even with serious efforts.
This tells us that current farming methods are not sustainable and must be changed if we are to maintain the planet’s ability to provide food for everyone. Unfortunately, farmers are already struggling to earn a living wage and changes in farming methods will increase their costs. Such costs must be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices. Stores do not want to increase prices so they will resist higher prices from the farmers and distributors. This keeps the pressure on farmers to continue nonsustainable farming practices. It is important for the public to educate themselves about how food is produced and to be willing to pay a little more for foods produced in more healthy ways. As a start to that consumer education, the following website offers some useful information.