June floods wreak havoc on once productive fields

Friday, August 1, 2008


Summer Intern

The June floods have scoured soil from Indiana fields, leaving farmers with barren areas where productive agricultural lands once stood.

To combat the loss of one of the most valuable resources on the planet, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is seeking to provide guidance for rebuilding soil.

NRCS State Agronomist Barry Fisher recommends putting down manure and a cover crop where lands have lost topsoil.

"Not only have you lost the soil, but you've lost all the biology in that soil that makes it productive for growing crops," Fisher said. "Your earthworms, the microorganisms everything has been washed away. You have to get some soil biology back into the land."

Fisher also said that the floodwaters also caused compaction in fields, and cover crop roots can start to loosen up those compacted areas.

NRCS has produced two guide sheets that lay out the recommendations for reclaiming flood-damaged fields. Both sheets, entitled "Soil Quality Reclamation for Spring Flood Damaged Fields" and "Cover Crops Reclaim Soil Quality in Flood Damaged Fields", can be accessed at the NRCS Web site (www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/EWP/EWPhomepage.html).

Jane Hardisty, NRCS State Conservationalist is hopeful that the Floodplain Easement Program will receive funds to purchase severely damaged aras and place them in permanent easements.

"Millions of tons of topsoil have been lost, and while we can work to reclaim some areas, others may never be productive lands again," Hardisty said.

According to Hardisty, floodplain easements provide flood retention areas in order to protect and maintain the functions of floodplains.

She said while safeguarding property from future flooding, floodplain easements also provide some compensation to producers for lost land.

For more information on reclaiming damaged soils, contact NRCS at the nearest USDA Service Center.

The Greencastle Service Center is located at 1007 Mill Pond Lane Ste C and can be reached at 653-5716.

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