LETTER: Today’s farming works to protect environmentIncreasing corn acres substantially is our best opportunity to make agriculture sustainable.
By: Orrie Swayze, Wilmot
To the Editor:
Increasing corn acres substantially is our best opportunity to make agriculture sustainable. Today’s reduced tillage, cover crops and corn rotations are reversing farming’s historic, unsustainable mining of soil carbon; even no-till farming will mine soil carbon unless corn or other C4 genetics’ almost miraculous water efficiencies are utilized to produce enormous quantities of biomass above and below ground. South Dakota State University’s review of 25 years of soil sample documentation indicates that South Dakota farmers’ reduced tillage practices together with no-till and high-yielding corn-dominant rotations have increased soil organic matter.
No-till cut erosion 98 percent and corn’s massive deep root systems protect ground water by scavenging leached fertilizer nutrients and bringing them back to the surface. No-till includes over one-third of U.S. crop acres plus trending toward capturing half of U.S. acres within 10 years. Today, the vast majority of U.S. farmers largely use reduced tillage practices that South Dakota farmers use making nearly all of our farmland a gigantic carbon sink if substantially increased corn acres are included in crop rotations. Sustainable farming is optimized as farmers continue the trend toward cover crops plus diverse minimum and no till corn rotations that today also significantly reduce agriculture’s nitrous oxide GHG emissions and commercial nitrogen requirements.
Diverting adequate soybean/other acres to corn ethanol acres will make sustainable farming possible, plus still produce a similar amount of protein as distiller’s proteins thus causing little market disruption. Conversely, increasing switch grass or sod acres on a comparable scale will significantly reduce food supplies causing chaotic grain market disruptions. Importantly, opening markets for higher-octane E30 ethanol blends will incentivize increasing corn acres also growing farmland’s cumulative carbon sink. Most importantly, E30 slashes carcinogenic/mutagenic emissions associated with benzene type octane enhancers dramatically reducing their medical costs and related tragedies.