Soil Conservation

Soil Conservation

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The United States was blessed with abundant fertile soil when the colonists first arrived, and the need to maintain that fertility did not immediately arise. Soon after the introduction of intensive tobacco farming, however, it became clear that this crop had a devastating on the quality of the soil if planted year after year without interruption.However, as long as the frontier presented fresh fertile land, the problem of soil degradation was never a crisis. The situation was exacerbated by the high prices paid by Europeans for food during World War I, which led to an expansion of land under cultivation beyond what could be sustained in peacetime.The onset of The Great Depression coincided with a combination of bad weather and the culmination of bad Farming practices that produced the Dust Bowl conditions of 1931 and 1933. Renamed the Soil Conservation Service within the Department of Agriculture, the agency developed demonstration projects across the country in selected watersheds.In 1938, the National Emergency Council sent a report to Roosevelt on economic conditions in the South. Its comments on the situation with regard to soil were particularly devastating:

Nature gave the South good soil. With less than a thirdof the Nation`s area, the South contains more than a thirdof the Nation`s good farming acreage. It has two-thirdsof all the land in America receiving a 40-ineh annual rain-fall or better. It has nearly half of the land on which cropscan grow for 6 months without danger of frost.This heritage has been sadly exploited. Sixty-one per-cent of all the Nation`s land badly damaged by erosion isin the Southern States. An expanse of southern farm landas large as South Carolina has been gullied and washedaway ; at least 22 million acres of once fertile soil has beenruined beyond repair. Another area the size of Oklahomaand Alabama combined has been seriously damaged by ero-sion. In addition, the sterile sand and gravel washed offthis land has covered over a fertile valley acreage equal insize to Maryland.

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