Countryside Tragedy

Fortunately a blizzard has reached the prairie, and hopefully one with enough snow to cover the numerous fields left barren after the fall plow down. This offers a few days of soil protection until the next melt. It’s simply a matter of time before the continuation of a countryside tragedy continues, as more dirt is released into the skies.

Which brings up the question: Have you ever wondered how many yards are in two tenths of a mile? I’ve got the answer for you … 352, or basically three and a half football fields.

A quarter mile? 440, or four football fields and nearly a half of a fifth.

For those who haven’t protected their tilled fields with a cover crop, or even just left stalks or crop reside alone following harvest, try to imagine how far your soil particles (dirt?) might have blown. Some will perhaps drive past their fields and see a buildup in the ditch and think that’s the extent. Some farmers will take front end loaders to lift the dirt back into the field … if that dirt is conveniently close to their field. Much of that blown dirt is not.

Not to pick on any particular commodity farmer, last weekend while driving past a farm I noticed the just how distant his dirt has blown, although country terrain and trees helped in keeping the dirt reasonably close. So here goes, starting at the lip or edge of a conservation-tilled field to a quarter mile away:

This is the “lip” of the tilled field, which was “conservation” tilled after the last harvest in early November …
Another angle, below the lip. The “gray matter” is snirt, or soil mixed in with snow.
Immediately below the lip …
At one tenth of a mile … 528 feet or 176 yards. Almost two football fields from the lip of the tilled field which is across a country road from the distant tree.
About a tenth and a half …
Two tenths of a mile … and over a bit of a rise past trees.
At a quarter mile! Here the blown dirt appear as ocean waves. Some of these particles will be carried into a small stream that eventually enters a lake about a mile distant, where a dirt weir has formed in the shallow waters.

Remember, this is mid-February, and crop cover won’t be high enough for soil protection until late May or early June, depending on the crop. And this isn’t an only example. Here are a couple of images taken in Lac qui Parle County late last week.

A combination of dirt and snow …
On Hwy 212 this was a common scene from the South Dakota border to Montevideo. This dirt will surely travel further than a quarter mile …

If the snow from the blizzard per chance covers the fields there will be a temporary respite. Otherwise a majority of the fields throughout SW Minnesota are simply barren and won’t be planted until late April, May or June … leaving fields and their valuable soils vulnerable to the prairie winds.

Is there a need for cover crops? For protecting valuable soils being farmed for commodity crops? I’m asking for a friend … perhaps one who has yet to be born and who in his or her lifetime might desire something to eat.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by John G. White. Bookmark the permalink.

About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

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