September 6, 2012
On Thursday, August 30, NRCS Chief Dave White announced the release of the report Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Missouri River Basin. The report is a comprehensive look at the effects of NRCS conservation practices on the approximately 510,000 square miles that the basin covers.
The basin extends from the Continental Divide through the northern Great Plains to the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, MO. It includes all of Nebraska and parts of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Twelve percent of all U.S. farms and 28 percent of all land in farms nationwide are in the Missouri River Basin. The eastern part of the basin features mostly corn and soybeans while the western portion of the basin is dominated by wheat and other close‐grown crops. Key findings of the report include:
The report found that 18 percent of the cropped acres in the basin have high or moderate level of need for additional conservation treatment with respect to soil erosion and nutrient management (other resource concerns did not factor into this part of the assessment).
Despite this relative good news, however, the report also found that only 24 percent of all cropped acres in the basin are meeting all nutrient management criteria for both nitrogen and phosphorous, meaning 76 percent of acres need improvement with respect to nutrient management.
With respect to soil quality, the study found that 40 percent of all cropped acres in the region are losing or at least not gaining soil organic matter.
If additional conservation practices were implemented throughout the basin, the report estimates it could reduce runoff of sediment by an additional 28 percent, nitrogen by an additional 13 percent and phosphorus by an additional 12 percent.
The report also notes that cultivated acres in the basin are growing as a result of sodbusting previously uncultivated land in reaction to high commodity prices, bringing new and possibly extensive conservation challenges.
The Missouri River Basin report is the fifth of twelve regional reports on conservation practices on cropland that will be issued as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). The Project is intended to assess the effects of conservation practices on the nation’s cropland, grazing lands, wetlands, wildlife and watersheds. It is a multi-agency, multi-resource effort led by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Additional information is available on the NRCS CEAP webpage.
Also last week, USDA released its Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators (AREI) report for 2012. The report examines how certain economic, environmental, and social indicators within agriculture have changed since 2006, when the last AREI report was published.
Indicators include farm real estate values, herbicide resistance, fertilizer consumption, and organic food sales, for example. Key finding of the 50 page report include:
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment