Turning Soils into Sponges: How Farmers Can Fight Floods and Droughts

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Year Published: 2017
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Author: Union of Concerned Scientists
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Floods and droughts have caused an estimated $340.4 billion in damages in the United States since 1980. On the nation’s farms, these extreme weather events devastate crops and livestock, and damage or wash away soil. Taxpayers shoulder a heavy burden from these disasters, which also affect cities and towns downstream from farm fields. Current agricultural policies incentivize farming practices that reduce soil’s ability to absorb and hold water. A new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis finds that a shift to soilbuilding practices that incorporate ground-covering crops year-round could help solve this problem. In 70 percent of field studies we analyzed, keeping soil unplowed and covered with living plants increased its sponge-like ability to absorb more water.
Employing these farming practices on a large scale could reduce runoff in flood years by nearly one-fifth and cut flood frequency
by the same amount, while also making as much as 16 percent more water available for crop use during droughts. Federal policy
changes are needed to support adoption of such systems and reap significant benefits for farmers, downstream communities, and
taxpayer-funded disaster relief and crop insurance programs.

Pages: 18
URL: http://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/advance-sustainable-agriculture/turning-soils-sponges#.WZxddSiGPIU
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Organization: Union of Concerned Scientists
Publisher: Union of Concerned Scientists

Soil health, water absorption, drought, flood, farming practices

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