“We have the data to put an economic value on topsoil, but what kind of bonus do you assign to an irreplaceable resource? ” asksRichard Cruse, Iowa State University (ISU) agronomist and director of the Iowa Water Center. He leads a research team using the latest technologies to more realistically track the state’s soil erosion.

Data from the resulting Iowa Daily Erosion project found that roughly 25% of Iowa’s row-crop ground erodes at more than twice NRCS’ “tolerable” rate of 5 tons/acre/year, Cruse says.

“It seems that we can lose 5 tons/acre/year and still maintain productivity,” Cruse says.

“The best science I can find now is that soil renews itself at just 0.5 ton/year worldwide.”

Our current farm system “is destined to fail because we depend on soil, fossil fuel and phosphorus, which we don’t recycle.

“Topsoil is the basis of our economy, the basis for international trade and the basis for food production worldwide,” Cruse says.

“And we expect taxpayers to pay us to do the right thing (conserve soil). If you buy a used car, it’s with the expectation that you will pay for future repairs. But if you buy farmland, it’s often with the expectation that the government will pay you to preserve your soil,” he says.