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Soil Conservation

I often hear about costs to society from erosion. What does this mean and what are some examples?

Soil erosion is composed of two main categories. One is the direct cost to the farmer and the other is the indirect cost to society. An example of the societal cost would be the decreased life of reservoirs due to increased siltation caused by erosion. Another cost is cleaning roadway ditches because they fill in with soil that has left the field. Increased turbidity in the water makes it difficult for fish to find spawning sights and it makes it expensive to clean the water for those using surface water for drinking. Fertilizer and pesticides can enter the water attached to soil particles. These costs are difficult to measure, but they are substantial. The cost of off-site erosion is estimated at $11 per ton using the average of recent analysis by the USDA/NRCS and estimates published in Science magazine and the International Journal of Sustainable Agriculture.

Soil Conservation Resources

A Closer Look: What Drives Conservation Decisions in Iowa?
Iowa’s fertile soil has helped the state become a global agricultural leader. However, that same soil and the fertilizers used to boost crop production contribute to water quality challenges when nitrogen and phosphorus leave through drainage, runoff and erosion. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy set statewide goals for reducing nutrient losses through a variety of practices.

Strip-Tillage at A Glance

Cost of Soil Erosion to the Landowner


Check out the ILF video series "Converting Your Planter for No-Till Operation".
(Note: click the three lines in the top right corner of the video for the entire playlist.)


Strip-tillage is well suited to poorly drained, wet, cold soils where seed germination is often delayed. Only a narrow portion of the row is tilled, which helps dry and warm soils in the spring, easing planter operation and promoting germination. The system can enhance efficiency when manure injection or commercial fertilizer application is incorporated into the tillage operation, reducing passes over the field. Specialized equipment does not always have to be purchased; most farmers already have the strip-tillage equipment accessible (such as in-row chisels and ammonia applicator knives). These benefits must be weighed against a variety of potential concerns. For instance, strip-tillage can induce erosion, particularly in highly erodible soils. Strip-tillage also can contribute to soil compaction between tilled zones when the field soil moisture conditions are at or above field capacity.

Check out the ILF video "Strip-Tillage Crop Management" in six chapters.
(Note: click the three lines in the top right corner of the video for the entire playlist.)

Cover Crops

Prairie Strips