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Goodbye Grasslands, Hello Corn

A new paper by South Dakota State University researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science looked at recent land-use changes in what they call the "western corn belt"—North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska between 2006 and 2011. What they found was that grasslands in that region are being sacrificed to the plow at a clip "comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia." According to the researchers, you have to go back to the 1920s and 1930s—the "era of rapid mechanization of US agriculture"—to find comparable rates of grassland loss in the region. All told, nearly two million acres of grassland—an area nearly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined—succumbed to the plow between 2006 and 2011, they found. Just 663,000 acres went from corn/soy to grassland during that period, meaning a net transfer of 1.3 million acres to the realm of King Corn.

[url]http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/02/king-corn-gobbles-climate-stabilizing-grassland-midwesthttp://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/...assland-midwest[/url]

From my own observations in N.E. Ohio I'd also add that more farms are harvesting the entire corn plant down to almost nothing. Combined with the increased use of weed killers this leaves mostly fields of mud wherever corn or soy is planted and I'm seeing more and more of that too. These practices have a large effect on a variety of wildlife which includes migrating waterfowl that used to feed in these fields. It seems that modern farming practices have turned to destroying more than giving and it wouldn't surprise me to see a return of "dust bowl" conditions in the midwest.

The native lands of upland birds did not depend on farming, those birds evolved and depend on grassland and shrubland habitats more than anything else.


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I heard some farmers on RFD TV talking about the report. They claim that there are 30 millon fewer acres being farmed now than in 1980. Those 30 million are in CRP for the most part or under a parking lot. We are losing ground at a fast pace and will continue as long as we are making ethanol from corn. Cellulosic ethanol may save the day within a few years.
 

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Corn is in an up cycle, that will change as reality enters and politics withers.
The timing of the cycle may be very inconvenient to many hunters and their dogs tho.

Ethanol from switchgrass, et al has a ways to go to best natural gas, I'm afraid.

CRP is often not equal in makeup to native grasslands...in fact, it seldom is.
Just looks like it from afar.

Progress which benefits us all has trade-offs...always has and always will.
The Dust Bowl comment is a mite of a stretch but the Ogallala depletion will change farming practices, in the shortgrass area especially.

Some comparison of this sky is falling to that noted losing of Uncle Fluharty's Auto 5.
Change is constant.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Lynnappelman
Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 01/26/04
Posts: 2854
Loc: Montour County
I heard some farmers on RFD TV talking about the report. They claim that there are 30 millon fewer acres being farmed now than in 1980. Those 30 million are in CRP for the most part or under a parking lot. We are losing ground at a fast pace and will continue as long as we are making ethanol from corn. Cellulosic ethanol may save the day within a few years.
I wouldn't count on cellulosic ethanol as saving the day regarding wildlife either. Where ever I see large fields of switch grass crops I also see they are harvested down to bare earth in the fall leaving zero winter cover for any kind of wildlife. It wouldn't be so bad of they left a foot or so of standing grass and some edges as uncut cover strips.

Regarding lost farm acres since the 80's. In Ohio, all I have to do is take a ride to some of the last remaining wild pheasant farm areas I used to hunt back then and see all the 3 & 4 acre spreads of single homes with manicured lawns that replaced many of the old hayfields and meadows that farmers families chunked off for sale bit by bit. Add to that mix a dash or two of shopping malls and parking lots to go along with the new mini estate houses and it's pretty obvious where all the farm acres around here have gone. Certainly not much has gone into crp around here.

See; 2 Farm Acres Lost Per Minute, Study Says
From 1982 to 1997, the nation's population grew 17 percent while the amount of land turned into urban areas increased by 47 percent. The Agriculture Department and the new farm bill have tried to protect farms and pastureland, including a program that provides about $100 million in matching funds every year to state and local groups and governments that buy easements for farmland to protect it permanently from urban development. Sprawl, not development itself, is the problem, the report said.



What's Happening To Our Farmland
Between 1982 and 2007, 41,324,800 acres of rural land (i.e., crop, pasture, range, land formerly enrolled in CRP, forest and other rural land) were converted to developed uses. This represents and area about the size of Illinois and New Jersey combined.

During the 25-year span, every state lost prime farmland.
States with the biggest losses included ;
Texas (1.5 million),
Ohio (796,000),
North Carolina (766,000),
California (616,000)
Georgia (566,000).

It's interesting to note that the first study says that recently Vermont, California and Pennsylvania are cited as three states that have balanced development with farmland preservation.

That ain't so in Ohio where it seems it's mostly about the money and "progress". Both of these reports say that wasteful land use is the problem, not growth itself.




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