Soil Deterioration and the Growing World Demand for Food

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Science  12 Aug 1977:
Vol. 197, Issue 4304, pp. 625-630
DOI: 10.1126/science.197.4304.625


A recent survey of five watersheds in south-central Wisconsin, where corn is now the dominant annual crop, illustrates the soil erosion damage that is occurring on sloping land under modern agricultural technology and prevailing market forces. In 70 percent of the 93 quarter-sections sampled, estimated soil losses, on the average, were more than twice the amounts considered compatible with permanent agriculture. Scattered studies by others indicate that the findings are meaningful for a large area in the United States when row cropping is prevalent on sloping soils.

Pressures on cultivated land, in general, are mounting rapidly because of the rising demand for meat in industrialized nations and the soaring numbers of marginally fed people in Third World countries. The world population-food problem makes increasing stress on U.S. soils inevitable in the foreseeable future. Adequate protection against excessive loss of productive topsoil requires that the level of publicly supported soil conservation activities be promptly adjusted to this circumstance.