Study Reveals Higher Erosion Rate on Midwest Agricultural Land

A new study in the journal Earth’s Future, led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, shows that, since Euro-American settlement, agricultural fields in the midwestern U.S. have lost, on average, two millimeters of soil per year. This means the Midwest has lost approximately 57.6 billion metric tons of topsoil since farmers began tilling the soil, 160 years ago. This is nearly double the rate of erosion that the USDA considers sustainable. Furthermore, USDA estimates of erosion are between three and eight times lower than the figures reported in the study. Finally, the study’s authors conclude that plowing, rather than the work of wind and water, is the major culprit.