The Great Depression seems to be repeating itself and we might also be facing a modern-day Dust Bowl.
The Dust Bowl was the name given to the Southern Plains region of the United States during the 1930s. A ten-year drought as well as several economic and agricultural factors attributed to the devastating high winds and dust. The 1930s drought exposed topsoil from over-farming and intense farming practices.
The Homestead Act of 1862, which provided settlers with 160 acres of public land, was followed by the Kinkaid Act of 1904 and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909. These acts led to a massive influx of new and inexperienced farmers across the Great Plains.
Many of these late nineteenth and early twentieth century settlers lived by the superstition “rain follows the plow.” Emigrants, land speculators, politicians and even some scientists believed that homesteading and agriculture would permanently affect the climate of the semi-arid Great Plains region, making it more conducive to farming.
History repeats itself as the nation’s Corn Belt loses precious topsoil
With property loss and food insecurity on the rise, the United States is coming to resemble the 1930s Great Depression. Minus, of course, the more cohesive culture that existed at the time. But there is about to be another similarity between 2021 and those dark years of economic collapse – a modern-day Dust Bowl.
Now, not even one hundred years later, we see history repeat itself. Centuries of over-farming are now taking a toll on the soil in many states, including Iowa. The nation’s Corn Belt, which stretches from Ohio to Nebraska, has already lost nearly 1/3 of its topsoil.
When added to our current supply chain issues and agricultural misallocations, this is a recipe for disaster. For more information about the dire situation we’re facing, check out this upcoming docuseries that features several writers from this website.
Recent study estimates 35% of the region’s topsoil is gone
An excerpt from Smithsonian Magazine article The Nation’s Corn Belt Has Lost a Third of Its Topsoil stated:
The baseline for soil in Iowa is visible on land owned by Jon Judson, a sustainable farmer, and conservation advocate. His farm hosts a rare plot of original prairie grasses and wildflowers. Under the prairie, the soil is thick and dark, with feet of organic matter built up and plenty of moisture. The next field over is a recovering conventional field like Watkins’ farm, and the effect of years of conventional practices is obvious. The soil is pale and compacted, with only a few inches of organic carbon, much less soil moisture, and a lot more clay.
Scientists and farmers know that agricultural soil erosion has been a problem for decades, but quantifying soil loss from a hundred years of farming and across multiple states has proven difficult. Now a study led by geomorphologist Evan Thaler and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February attempts to answer the elusive question of how much topsoil has been eroded in the Corn Belt, which stretches roughly from Ohio to Nebraska and produces 75 percent of the nation’s corn. The study estimated that about 35 percent of the region has lost its topsoil completely, leaving carbon-poor lower soil layers to do the work of supporting crops.
“I think it’s probably an underestimate,” says Thaler, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. “There are areas where there’s probably a centimeter of topsoil left.”
Study shows the magnitude of the erosion but not the cause
The report mentioned doesn’t say if it is farmers’ practices or overfarming or even if it is some natural erosion. The Corn Belt, heavily farmed for hundreds of years, is showing signs of intense farming. It could be due to the methods used to cultivate the soil. It could also be farmers simply aren’t allowing their fields to sit idle for a time. Doing so would allow that field to regain the nutrients it needs to feed future crops.
“The argument is that we’ve got to feed nine billion people by 2050, and that seems to give me carte blanche to do whatever I want with the land if I’ll produce corn,” Watkins says. “I think it’s more important to build up a bank of healthy, fertile soil for when our population grows instead of depleting it now.”
Watkins is right. Overfarming leads to short-term gains and long-term damage. Such as farm collapse, environmental damage, and famine. Sustainable farming is a better answer but isn’t of much interest to large corporations, who want the money right now.
The hard truth
The truth is, farmers cannot afford to allow their fields to sit idle. Due to weather-related events and gross government overreach, recent disruptions of farms and crops have set the United States on a collision course to a food shortage crisis. My previously published articles detail how all these factors listed above fuse to create a food shortage of epic proportions.
The Corn Belt is under threat from the exact cause that produced the Dust Bowl. We are entering into a perfect storm of factors that will result in a country overwhelmingly dependent on food and overwhelmingly urban areas being faced with shortages of food they have long taken for granted.
If history teaches us anything, it is that no one learns from history. The few that do are doomed to watch everyone else repeat it. Let’s hope this is not the case this time. Still, it is wise to prepare if it is.
Are you ready for a Modern-Day Dust Bowl?
If you have never considered producing your own food, maybe now is the time. Erica Nygaard offers excellent, first-hand experience to guide you through the process of homesteading. Erica covers everything you need to know in her new pdf book, “The Dirty Truth About How to Start Homesteading.”
What are your thoughts on the fragility of our nation’s soil? Share your thoughts, and helpful ideas with others in the comment section below.
Robert Wheeler has been quietly researching world events for two decades. After witnessing the global network of NGOs and several ‘Revolutions’ they engineered in a number of different countries, Wheeler began analyzing current events through these lenses.
Excellent article- monoculture farming practices have destroyed so much of our land and natural resources. In addition, the use of chemically dependent seeds have seen the rise of colony collapse in important vectors for pollination, as well as impacts to water sources- specifically sub-surface aquifers. Throw that in with the ridiculously processed nature of most corn products that are in boxes on market shelves, it feeds this horrible cycle of demand farming.
Most people don’t realize that the high plains of our nation were a desert, as recently as Lewis and Clark. We’ve been growing food in a niche weather/fertility vacuum for the last couple of hundred years- and we’ve gotten used to that level of production. The struggle to preserve what we have is very real.
I notice that most of the “experts” have no idea how to farm much less have ever been engaged in farming. I do agree that fallowing is a good and long term practice followed by many farmers, is is used much less in the ginger rainfall areas of the plains. One of the biggest reasons that continuous cropping is the norm in many areas is quite simply trying to justify the high price of farm land. Land pries have been driven up by non farming investors. The demand for ethanol fr automotive fuel (to make the greenies happy) has increased the demand for corn. The cost of production has far out paced the market price therefore growers have to increase production more to stay afloat financially. So far as having only on centimeter of topsoil that is a idiotic comment. lots of things to consider here folks so don\’t be jumping on the farmer for not being “organic” if you want a plentiful supply of food.
“Overfarming leads to short-term gains and long-term damage”
and given that their interests are limited to their own lifetimes, virtually all producers will favor short-term interest and ignore long-term damage. “not my problem.”
the alternative is to forcibly control how producers use their land.
“I think it’s more important to build up a bank of healthy, fertile soil for when our population grows instead of depleting it now.”
it is. except those who do so will lose out economically and financially to those who don’t.
if you think this is bad in america, it’s worse in china. the entire chinese culture (in practice) revolves around “me, mine, now” – on the farm, on the factory floor, in the board room, in the banks, in the headquarters command center, in the politburo.
Go to Primarywater.org We have an abundant supply deep underground. The water flows where there is a weakness in the earths crust. Many mines in the desert are abandoned because it is too difficult to pimp out all the water. It is there !!!
Droughts come and go in the South West. Regardless whether it is desert or ” high Country” areas.
Just because rain fall is low, that does not always impact underground water sources.
What ” science” fails to understand is that there is a lot more water underground. than above ground.
Much more than they ever dreamed was possible.
“A reservoir of water three times the volume of all the oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The finding could help explain where Earth’s seas came from.”, stated a recent article.
They always laughed at the Story of Noah. Genesis 7:11,”…all the underground waters erupted from the earth, and the rain fell in mighty torrents from the sky.”, saying that no such large volumes of underground water existed.
Well so much for Science.
ms berry, that is not a bad idea,however, try convincing the state and federal EPA of that. Here in Arizona,one can’t do anything about closed mines because the state says the water is contaminated and not fit for anything. Again, the government is “here to help you”
“state says the water is contaminated and not fit for anything”
Years ago, I taught some classes in computer building and repair. I was given no tools, no parts, no computers, no supplies of any kind. All I had was a motley collection of teenage boys…not one single girl was in any of those classes.
I asked the school for permission to bring in some stuff for my students to work on, which I paid for out of pocket. I scoured the online classifieds and got lots of good deals. They weren’t “new outta the box”, but we built up a lab of something like 45 working machines.
My students did such a great job, that other teachers often asked to use these machines with their kids when the computers at the library were already taken. Because besides everything else, OUR computers worked. And when one of them stopped working, I had a dozen kids on hand who could fix them. We had better turn around times than the school’s tech department. They were irked at first, but then they realized we made their jobs easier. We were like a relief valve for them, and since they only had 3 guys for the whole building, they stopped sneering. One of them even came by to show the kids what he knew, which was a LOT more than I did.
Moral of the story: land to grow food is a lot like those computers. We can either keep relying 100% on the experts for EVERYTHING, or we can at least start trying to do some of the work ourselves. Growing food is a skill, and you only get better when you start DOING it.
That sounds great! I love how you taught kids wonderful skills.
We just watched on Netflix “Kiss the Ground” an excellent documentary on this subject, highly recommend it. Greetings from BC Canada.
I think everyone should watch “Kiss The Ground” and the “Back to Eden” film. There’s so much information out there on how to increase fertility, production and topsoil.
Your trying to simplify the cause of the dust bowl to just soil. Water is key and we learned. The number of ponds, water tanks and Corp of Engineer water sheds grew significantly. Irrigation methods are vastly improved as well.
Heat? We’ve had the coolest spring I ever remember. To the point I’ve lost plants because ground soil dropped back too cool. I had to replant.
I know there’s a big call for drought fears. The portion shown here is always dry and not unusual for it to stay so. It’s a big gamble farming that area.
If your relying on canals to pipe in water from elsewhere even 2 states over well that’s gonna end badly at some point.
Sometimes it’s the people because there’s been a lot of movement to small hobby farms round here. In some cases they try and grow what shouldn’t. That soil that’s left open when they fail is subject to erosion.
There’s a lot of different types of farming too. Big difference in private and corporate farm methods too.
Everyone should be very worried about evil Bill Gates buying up so much farmland.
My primary answer to this one is religious, and nobody has to believe or agree with it. We are in the Biblical Book of Revelations. In 1986, we got Chernobyl, the Church Slavonic word for “wormwood,” the third trumpet. “There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed,” and our time has learned about human trafficking, the kidnap of children for assault, slavery, torture, murder and much worse. We finally found out where anti-Semitism is coming from as SOME Jews literally worship Satan, abuse their neighbors and do abusive things to their nations. Others live up to the Jewish calling to be “a light onto the nations.” Many royals, masons, Hollywood, Bollywood, District of Criminals and billionaires and leaders are also members of the Satanic Secret Society. That is a lot of Revelations, and oh my goodness, the Arizona election audit! It is unbelievable what a mess Satan has made of things. There are many nasty things in the Apocalypse about all green grass was burnt up and such. But God wins in the end, and behold! He makes all things new. I am alert and prepping, but not really afraid.
I was raised Christian, but my mother was Jewish, and that makes me a Jewess for free. I have much enjoyed worshipping with my fellow Jews the last 10 years. Very important: “kindness and charity can avert the evil decree.” Gregg Baden’s book “The Isaiah Effect also says that prophets are not necessarily saying that both their evil AND good will come to pass sequentially. Often, we have a choice!
An escaped bloodline family Satanist, now returned to God says she was trained for a high position for magic creating the antichrist–and was able not to do the last part, hindering him. A Turkish video says that a 4-nation military team found weapons aboard the Ever Given including one that would have introduced a bioweapon that would have interacted with 5G cell radiations to destroy all cattle feed crops. That is another trumpet, and it has been averted.
We WILL go thru some severe challenges, including starvation, so do prep. But be not afraid.
Regenerative Agriculture will come in strong during and after the Tribulation, so Behold, all the land damage will be healed, and we will clean our food of the poisons that have been making us fat and sick.
Beans follow corn. That’s my rule in my own space. Corn uses up a lot of nutrients that beans help replenish. The field behind my cousin’s place in Iowa alternates the crops. And, back to my own gardens, I leave a space unplanted every year to let it heal. That being said, I hope every farmer out there is working on their soil to avoid these issues. For corporate farming, it’s really hard to avoid using the field corn they grow because it’s in nearly everything.
Another issue of note, and not to detract from this one. Please, please read up on the PAUSE act which will devastate ranching in Colorado. Daisy, maybe you can ask one of your people to weigh in on that?
Another huge factor in the earlier dust bowl is also becoming a major factor in the future problems in the breadbasket of the country. That is the continuous cutting down of trees, especially fencerow trees around moderate size fields. Depending on the shape and orientation of the field, just 160-acres can lose massive amounts of topsoil if it is not protected with appropriate fencerows.
Many fields, especially commercial fields can be hundreds of acres in size, without a single tree anywhere in sight. This allows any wind that might blow to pick up the soil and carry it a distance. It might land in the next field over, but that has probably had much of its topsoil moved over to the next field. And on and on.
With strong winds, as are often present in the spring before planting takes place and just after, and those often present in the fall not long after harvest, the erosion is much worse. Not to mention faster.
A great deal of seed is lost when it is planted, even at traditional times, if the wind does come up and chew the emerging sprouts and shoots into nothingness. The field must be replanted. Sometimes, in some places, getting enough seed to replant thousands of achers several times can be next to impossible.
Some irrigation techniques are extremely wasteful, but easier to use than those that limit wasting water but get even more water to the plan than what current systems are able to achieve.
A field laying fallow can be good, but not if it is left simply as bare dirt that can blow away just as easily as all the other bare patches of ground.
It will take a combination of several techniques, used simultaneously, by the vast majority of farms in the areas. They need tall, but narrow, fast growing trees planted to regrow fencerows around every 160-acres.
The use of less wasteful irrigation systems have to be incorporated, both to conserve water so it can be used for long periods, plus avoid making things worse by not providing water to the crops when they need it, not when it is convenient for the water supplier to provide it.
Strict adherence to rotating crops, including up to one-quarter of the land every year. Fallow fields need to be planted with high quality, high nutrient value, cover crops. The crop rotation should cycle through crops so that each crop follows one that has helped replenish the soil for that next one. And each succeeding planting should do the same, until it is time to plant whatever the first crop was.
Less productive areas of farms should be set aside as composting plots where everything that can be composted is deposited on the field on top of whatever was added last. Either sections of the field should be turned and another section started receiving the material so the first can rest and grow into the most nutritious soil amendment product possible. Or, one field can be turned and another field start accepting the material while the first one is turned into soil amendment.
These are only a few of the things that need to be done in order to bring back the middle of the country to become the high production food production area it was at one time.
Just my opinion.
Where we are, it’s literally a dust bowl but I see farmers working to improve it. Dust storms are common. I’m not a farmer but I have a lot of respect for them. I’m trying a permaculture approach on my tiny patch . I’ve just started and already had lots of interest from the locals. One farmer who is 97 and my neighbour asked what is that hippy chick doing now . We now have afternoon tea once a week to talk about different methods and why I’ve chosen to grow what I’m growing.
I live in high mountain desert. I intensive garden. I cover crop if it’s too late to plant a sucession crop. Favorites are peas or red clover. I also can peas from that cover crop and if its red clover I dry some and make teas.
Not worried about this in eastern Texas. We just had a 100 year flood with two more expected this week.
I was in the city Friday. West of town the winds I iced u I and the dust rose in dry clouds. In minutes inability dropped to less than 2 miles across the city. Drough here for several years worsening to severe and even extreme conditions. No relief in sight. Desert country so top soil is thin now becoming non existent in some areas.
I plant intensive so moisture stays in the soil longer. I compost. Again that builds up the soil. Worm that were almost non existent are more prevalent. Crops better, more flavorful, and more productive.
No sprinkler in the garden. All soaker hoses. Drip irrigation is good but I’ve been investing in the soaker hoses and regular garden hoses and multi connectors so there is no more dragging heavy long hoses. Planting fruit trees and planting compatable things in their shade. In the long run is less work, less water, and improved yields.
BEFORE IT GETS BAD IS THERE A WAY WE CAN PRODUCE WATER OUT OF THIN AIR THAT THE AVERAGE PERSON CAN TRY AT HOME AS IN A SCIENCE PROJECT. AND EVEN SEE WHAT THE KIDS COULD COME UP WITH.
atmospheric water generation (AWG)
Never mind all the good farmland that was sold (more often than not by a farmer’s heirs) and became Pleasant Valley Sunday subdivisions. Of course in a number of those former fields, certain areas were never planted and/or were water run-off areas. Now the current homeowners complain when their basements get wet.
I’m sure my area has lost topsoil – if for no other reason, money to be made allowing by selling their topsoil. But overall the fields are in decent shape. Crops are rotated and some fields are left fallowed and/or cover crops planted. Rivers and the Great Lakes benefit our area IMHO.
I have the formula for a natural plant spray that could help heal the land and increase crop production. My website is http://sudevtek.net