Top Soil is society’s most valuable resource. Erosion is the detachment and transport of soil by water or wind. Most soil erosion in Kentucky is the result of soil movement by water, generally over sloping land without adequate surface cover.

As water moves down a slope it tends to pick up speed and build kinetic energy. That energy can then dislodge and move soil particles as dissolve ag chemicals and nutrients.

As the slope increases, the danger of erosion goes up exponentially.

Better surface cover protects soil by holding it together and slowing its flow speed. Slowing the flow rate gives more time for the soil to be absorbed into the soil and reduces the energy the water has to move soil particles. Surface cover with fibrous roots also holds the soil together and improves the soil structure.

On the other hand, corn and soybeans increase the amount of bare soil both during the growing season and after harvest. They also increase the quantity of ag chemicals introduced into the environment.

Studies in the flatter midwest corn belt area showed “tilled corn and corn-soybeans exhibited the highest amount of soil erosion, and N, P, and SOC loss; the grassland baseline was the lowest for all metrics; and no-till corn and corn-soybeans were intermediate (Figure 3). For soil erosion, tilled corn and corn-soybeans caused 4–6 times more loss than the baseline (Figure 3). Conversion to no-till corn-soybean and no-till corn rotations increased erosion above the grassland baseline, but this was substantially lower than the tilled crops. These differences reflect in part that perennial grasslands provide year-round protection from soil erosion relative to corn and soybeans. Similarly, tillage mixes surface residue with upper soil layers, reducing the amount of residue protecting the soil and thus increasing susceptibility to erosion.”

 while results show “perfect” no-till practices, real-world results are somewhere between No-Tilled and Till practices.

In conclusion, on Class I and II land, established grass it preferable to continuous corn and corn is preferable to soybeans. On Class III land (8 to 15% slope) permanent grass is the best way to protect our precious topsoil.

USDA says in total Mason County has 35,780 acres of Class I & II land. Because Mason County’s topography is dominantly undulating to very steep and is dissected by many small streams these acres are not contiguous. As farmers have increased corn and soybean acres to 19,500 acres per year, many of these acres are on highly erodible class III or higher sloped land.

Mason County farmers need an economically viable way to transition from row crops back to more permanent grassland.