Study: The Midwest has lost 57 billion metric tons of topsoil over 160 years

The researchers estimate the Midwest has lost 57.6 billion metric tons of topsoil since farmers began tilling 160 years ago. This erosion, Larsen said, makes it more difficult and more expensive to grow crops.


National News

April 18, 2022 - 3:53 PM

University of Massachusetts Amherst geosciences professor Isaac Larsen stands on the drop-off separating the native prairie from farmland at Stinson Prairie, Iowa. Photo by KCUR/Umass Amherst

A few years ago, Isaac Larsen attended a wedding at a pioneer church in Minnesota. After the ceremony, he wandered around a cemetery by the church.

He noticed the cemetery, which had never been tilled, was at least a foot higher than a corn field just on the other side of a fence.

“That was one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments that told me that a lot of soil had been eroded from that field since the founding of the church,” Larsen said.

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