Agricultural conservation

Material Information

Agricultural conservation
Series Title:
Bulletin, New series
Cover title:
Alsberg, Henry Garfield ( Alsberg, Henry G. (Henry Garfield), 1881-1970 ), 1881-1970
Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Florida
Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Place of Publication:
<Tallahassee Fla.>
State of Florida, Dept. of Agriculture
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
81 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural conservation -- Florida ( lcsh )
Soil conservation -- Florida ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


General Note:
"July, 1948".
General Note:
"Compiled by Federal Writers' Project of Florida"--t.p. verso.
Bulletin (Florida. Dept. of Agriculture) ;
Statement of Responsibility:
<revised H.G. Alsberg ... et al.>

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
001799518 ( ALEPH )
44576385 ( OCLC )
AJM3263 ( NOTIS )

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Full Text


The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida





State of Florida
Department of Agriculture
NATHAN MAYO, Commissiner



F. C. Harrington, Administrator
Florence S. Kerr, Assistant Administrator
Henry G. Alsberg, Director of Federal Writers' Project

Published by

Florida Department of Agriculture
NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner
Tallahassee, Florida

July, 1948

Compiled by

Federal Writers' Project of Florida

Table of Contents


Introduction 5

Destructive Planting Methods 6

Florida Conservation Program 7

Federal Agencies Help 9

Reforestation Work 16

Water Disposal Plans 17

Soil Conservation (Planning Division) 23

Place of Soil Conservation in Agricultural Policy 48

High Schools Course in Soils 53



Agricuilttural constrvilation his become synonymous with
soil conseirlation to the Amlerican fanmer of today. Such
problems as crop rotation. crop control, and irrization are
still part of his daily occupation in tilling the land. but they
h.le tnowt been absorbed in the one factor which has become
the most imlportniit in ill agricultural pIl'oratms.
Thle neces'ity for .toil conlser\lation was recoiniled by the
United Statei Depirltment of ACriculture more than fifth% ve.r.,
ago. but the flot miodelrni, iltenmie stuies alone i this, line tre
made by Prof. V,. J. SpillminI, .IgricultuIrst in chlarIg of the
office ,f flai i lll n lleln llnt. BHi cn of Plant Industry, and
published by the Idepartment in 1910) In a preface to PIof.
Spillman's report the lHon Jame, \Wils\,i. then U S Secre-
tarv of Agriciltluire, stated

"Our soils are by filr the iliMst imllll)rtiint national resources
Plofessor- Spillman makes clnii the situation that confronts
uN in v\-ie of the fact that pl.cticallv all of the more desirable
farm land in the coLuniIl has been brought under cultivatton;
and that to nImeet te inclleaIsing delillands for foodstuffs, im-
proved method of fal iniig mii st be uised Such methods must
be empleId ils aie best .idated to the conservation and
nlm intenlinci nf .II feilili'L
Prof. Spilliman compiled a nuibel of bulletins setting
forth tih relsullt of 111'sICVe iesciarchl work in aill parts of
the country. "We are no longer a new nation" lie stated
it) an ilitroduct'on to his, pllnteld ork "WVe hae deluded
our'elhes with thle id*e thaIt awe have unbouniied l'esoules
in lnld,. in forests. in mlner.l wealth. We have been podi-
'al il tIho itlil.'latoln of tLlise lsotlce. I ll Illa y of i01 older
Coilnla ntllies Soil lrl'tli\t 1 ihas h Ie Cln reduce hlow%, the polint
of profitable piodu(ctiol On the p l.ries if the lWest fertility
1s hefllnnil n to wane. In nider that our helieime in the
prairie countlly mlay not follow the descent of the East and
South, Il is necessary that intIellient land VIIgoIous effort be
made to farm cil orrectly We must cease abluinlg the soil The
Itntlln of land oin short leases for the purpose of Crowmln
craln for market is one of the surest means of reducing the
productive power of the soil "


Destructive Planting Methods

I'lof Spillman pointed out further that the very manim-
tude and nchness of our national domain had led to such
prciiah.litv in l.and-ue th.t the Nation ws confr,ontcl with
incre.tslna demands for food which had to be met bI solls
depletled of mluch of their yielding power.

In thoem d. he :t:.;r. in if f.,aer fr,'r t:: E;-t
t, the West w -1 ill ;n pi,,rt1i and the. problem nf c.r.f 4
for thei land w.-, intenaifltd i)b rapid changes in mwinership,
with IInW p)'opriitolrS pu tll i into effect iltll(thod w ll 'h wore
nlot pli'riy ad apt.Ible to the character of the soil in which
:hti'. \ e pl.n .' ht:r c ) E.\p!lille fa.irmin as carried
on :" .tuh ain 'i.\t'it ha: -II a, further dieplh ted by u:4
of di.lltuctive In'tllh'ds of plaiting oni a 1alge sea '

Many Westlrn f.ulmei whi were i ffeled good prices for
their land sald lou aned I:,ttired t-c tihe East An unsaats-
falttr1 sv>,tem tnf irtin i[Ad o pr.ait4 up with shrt terni
leases to tenant fitllers who had no intr-est in mlantainin
the Icrtility of' t lie lnnd beclslls they w'ere tlnclrtiin whether
thilv would bevifilt b\ it

C'lier the' cilirur.i'aiinto, prices for farm products were'
.tedilyv increased when detcteasing fertility of the soil, coupled
wlih tlhe Ius ol' Inw alnd expensive e inlltinOl'r,i resulted il
Incised costs ti the fa-inie

Prnf Spillnm in tcn,,mrntndd the f,,lliwin, g iteps a
.solution if the ,oil clnservation problem.

"Al w IieaIse of ~mlllestlc :tlials l on thef farms the planting
of Itrun;:irous crnp in much greater profusion. use if better
isee delp fall prep.aration )if the sol. shallow and frequent
culRi\ llton of lilt' C-'ip dii ing tile gloWln sg season ;ild espP-
cially Ilrte a lailn. judiciouls luse of com.nimerL'. il, anrl
incrlt, d tise of hiontm prlllluced ferlill, i s"


Florida Conservation Program

These recommendations, with others that have been de-
veloped through public and private research, now form the
basis of all agricultural conservation work in the United

These plans are made in the field by the land owners and
a technician of the Soil Conservation Service whose services
are made available to the district through Memoranda of
understanding between the District and the U. S Depart-
ment of Agriculture and the Soil Conservation Service,

The plans are developed from conservation surveys, made
on aerial photographic maps. that show the different classes
of land in accordance with their ability to produce citrus,
truck, pasture grasses, or woodland

No attempt is made to change the type of agriculture the
land owner is engaged in but quite often in developing a
plan, it is found that other lands are better adapted to the
production of a particular crop than where it has been grow-
ing, then, if the land owner so desires, plans are made to
utilize the better adapted soil. Sometimes a land owner may
be planning to convert to some other type of agriculture or
to expand his present operations to other lands; then the ad-
vantages of having a soils map showing the capabilities of the
land, as well as the expert advice of a trained technician, is
invaluable as plans can be made to utilize the land in accord-
ance with what it is best adapted to produce.

As stated previously these plans are developed in the field
by the land owner and the technician and when completed
are type-written and placed in a manila folder and delivered
to the farmer or rancher with a land use map showing the
proposed land use, acreage, and location of each field by
number. A soil map, which is an actual aerial photograph
of the area and which shows the different soils is also included
with the plan. The different classes of soil are appropriately
colored on the map and a legend provided so that one need
not be an expert soil scientist to properly interpret the map.


Sometimes extra copies of these maps are available and they
are presented to the land owner, on request, to be framed or
used as he sees fit.
Upon the completion of the plan, the district furnishes the
necessary technical advice and assistance to put the plan into
effect. This consists of assistance in procuring planting stock
such as Pangola grass. Bermuda grass, pine tree seedlings and
grass seed that is scarce and not commonly found on the
market, such as Pensacola Bahia grass and Hairy Indigo. En-
gincering assistance is also made available and on those plans
calling for water control practices, such as drainage or irriga-
tion. trained engineers assist the land owners in laying out
the work as well as with the establishment. These services are
not available to any one except those land owners who have
had ,a conservation plan made on their farm or ranch. There
is no obligation on the part of the land owner to carry out
the plan and this part of it is left up to his willingness and
ability to do so; however, the district agrees to furnish the
technical assistance in agronomy, engineering, and forestry
practices and is obligated to furnish this help if the land owner
carries out his part of the plan.


, Federal Government
Conlrvation Districts in process
of being included-December, 1947

Federal Agencies Help

The work of Mr. Mayo's department is supplemented by
Federal agencies organized for the benefit of the farmers
under the Agricultural Adjustment Administration The ob-
ject of these agencies is to restore to the American farmer
as rapidly as possible the purchasing power which he enjoyed
during the five-year period immediately preceding the World
These Federal agencies include the Commodity Credit
Corporation, which lends or borrows money on agricultural
commodities, the Farm Credit Administration, which provides
long and short term credit in the form of farm mortgages.
production and cooperative marketing loans; The Federal In-


termediate Credit Bank, which provides agricultural credit for
periods that are "intermediate" between the maturities usually
available through short-term commercial bank loans 'and those
of long term farm mortgage loans; Federal Land Banks, which
make farm loans upon first mortgages only; Production Credit
Corporations and Associations, which make permanent a pro-
duction credit system for agriculture, cooperative in form;
Regional Agricultural Credit Corporation which make direct
loans to farmers and stockmen for agricultural purposes; Crop
Production Loan Office, providing emergency facilities for
financial institutions which aid in financing agriculture and
industry; the Bank for Cooperatives, which make physical
facihty loans, operating loans, and effective merchandising
loans; the Land Bank Commissioner, who loans to farmers
for refinancing and reducing debts; the Federal Subsistence
Homestead Corporation, which serves as the lending agency
of the division of subsistence homesteads of the Department
of the Interior and the Federal Farm Mortgage Corporation,
which aids in financing the lending operations of the Federal
Land Banks and the Land Bank Commissioner.


One object of the proposed plans for reorganization of
government departments would be to consolidate the work
of these various Federal agencies with a view of making it
more effective and, at the same time, providing a simpler and
more direct contact between the farmer and his government.

The bulletins of Prof. Spillman, as important as they were
to the welfare of the nation, attracted little attention except
in the rural sections of the country. Farmers realized their
value at once, particularly because Professor Spillman warned
against wasteful, large-scale planting of crops on land not
suited for their cultivation and against the practice of aban-
doning soil-depleted farms instead of trying to rehabilitate
them by use of reclamation measures.
It was the forceful personality and power of the late
President Theodore Roosevelt that brought the matter to
the attention of the whole nation. With Gifford Pinchot of
Pennsylvania and other prominent men interested in the prob-
lem, President Roosevelt launched a vigorous campaign for
soil conservation. Roosevelt frankly told the American people


that they were throwing away their birthright and compared
the man who wasted his land to the prodigal who dissipated his

Roosevelt's campaign at once awakened the public to the
importance of soil conservation. His efforts have been re-
vived and strengthened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
whose ceaseless insistence upon the protection and develop-
ment of natural resources has accomplished far-reaching re-
sults in all parts of the country. The United States Forest
Service has been expanded and improved, the Departments
of Agriculture and the Interior have concentrated their at-
tention on this problem and have worked together, as far as
conditions would permit, in assisting the farmer in caring for
his only means of livelihood. The state forest services through-
out the country, including the efficient organization in Florida.
have cooperated with the Federal government. Emergency re-
lief agencies, like the C.C.C. camps and forestry projects of
the Works Progress Administration have also taken a hand in
the campaign.
Tillers of the soil have been impressed by the fact that
their stake in the land is not a mere chattel which they can
throw away or destroy m accordance with their own whims
or desires. With the supply of "free land" exhausted, they
have been told frankly by conservationists that they must
take good care of the soil as a duty which they owe to society.
With 50 million acres of land ruined by erosion and 100 million
more approaching ruin as a consequence of improper land-use.
the problem is no longer individual in character but one which
affects every citizen of America.

In his role as a partner with society in the preservation
ot natural resources, the farmer has a new concept of his
importance in the life of the Nation. He has shown a willing-
ness to cooperate in the government conservation program
and is thankful for the help extended to him. He also welcomes
an increased public interest in his problems and appreciates
the offer of his fellow citizens to join him in saving a national
asset which is not only destructible but irreplaceable. As a
result, cooperation between the land-owner and society has


become the watchword in the campaign for soil preservation
and reclamation.
The partnership between the farmer or rancher 'and so-
ciety has found new expression m the passage of soil conser-
vation laws by the legislatures of 22 states since January 1,
1937. Similar bills will soon be introduced in other state law-
making bodies which are taking the cue from the pioneers
and joining wholeheartedly in the program of the Federal
government. The six million farmers and ranchers of the
country are thoroughly aroused to the importance of their
position as members of new farm organizations whose work
is vital to the welfare of the United States
These farm organizations were set up by the Federal gov-
ernment when it was realized that the problem of soil con-
servation called for community action. The efforts of the
individual farmer, well-meaning though they might be, could
not accomplish any lasting results unless they were coordi-
nated with those of his neighbors. Soil carried by the water
moves from the crest of the ridges down to the bottom lands
along the streams. Consequently, if the man on the hillside
does nothing to hold his soil and water where they belong,
the man down below can do nothing but grin and bear it
when his crop and his good soil are buried by sand, gravel and
raw clay from eroded fields higher up.

To combat such problems, Congress passed the Soil Con-
servation Law which, in conjunction with state laws, provides
for the organization of soil conservation districts formed in
accordance with democratic principles 'and placing responsi-
bility for formulating and promoting erosion-control programs
squarely upon the shoulders of local people Furthermore they
require that the initiative must originate with local people and
be based upon local needs.
Florida was one of the first states to pass soil conservation
district laws. Legislators at Tallahassee realized at once the
importance of the land saving program and lost no time in
putting the necessary authority for it on the statute books.
The law is an enabling act which permits Florida farmers
to organize and form soil conservation districts with the status
of governmental subdivisions of the State. These districts are
formed voluntarily by farmers who work the land m the


districts. The law does not compel them to organize. After a
district has been formed and a certificate of organization
granted by the state, the members have authority (1) to engage
m cooperative action to combat soil-erosion and (2) to prevent
local misuse of land by voting land-use regulations upon them-
The method of organization is as follows'
A majority of farmers in a county meet and decide to
band themselves together for the purpose of pursuing a co-
operative erosion-control program They send a petition to
the State Soil Conservation Committee at Tallahassee, request-
ing permission to organize a conservation district. The State
committee then holds a public hearing on the matter and de-
cides whether a district is needed. The committee defines the
boundaries of the district (county lines) and gives notice of a
referendum to be held to determine public sentiment
All land occupiers or landowners may vote in the refer-
endum and if a majority of them vote against creation of a
district that ends the matter. If the proposal for a district is
approved, however, the State committee appoints two direc-
tors, who file a certificate of organization with the Secretary
of State. When this certificate is issued, the district becomes
a legal unit.

An election is then called to choose three more directors.

In smaller counties the board may consist of three directors,
two of whom are elected by the farmers

The board of directors then secures technical assistance in
buying such equipment as funds permit and the program re-
quires. After the program has been operating for some time,
individual farmers may decide against the idea and object to
carrying out instructions they have received on the care of
their land. The board of directors and neighbors of the farmers
concerned must try first to induce them to cooperate. If this
fails, the directors then draw up conservation ordinances and
submit them to a vote of the people. If this vote is ,against
the ordinances they are not put into effect. If a large majority
favors the ordinances, they are put into effect and the directors
have the power to get assistance from the courts in compelling


dissenters to comply with them Penalties are provided for
non-compliance with the court orders.
However, there is a chance that grave injustice may be
done in some cases. The farmer who refuses to carry out the
provisions of the ordinances may be right in his stand, and
the directors may be wrong in requiring him to put certain
regulations into effect on his land. To meet this eventuality
a board of adjustment is set up in each district for adoption
of land-use regulations, and this board has power to permit
exceptions and variances from land-use regulations in cases
where strict application of the law would result in "great
practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships."
Despite these safeguards which have been provided for
the individuals, it is possible that there will be districts in
which the procedures outlined will prove impractical. The
law therefore provides that after a district has been in ex-
istence for five years farmers may petition to have it dis-
solved. This question is submitted to a referendum and if a
sufficient number of people affected should vote to dissolve
the district its affairs are brought to an end.
In the matter of crop regulation, under provisions of the
1936 Agricultural Conservation Program, about 23,060 farmers,
organized into 25 county associations, participitated in the
1936 Program in Florida. Of the total Florida cropland, about
57 percent, or 1,241,000 acres, was covered by applications for
payments. The acreage diverted from soil-depleting crops
(1,823 from tobacco, 34,292 from cotton, 5,751 peanuts, and
13,467 from other crops) totalled 55,333 acres. Soil-building
practices were put into effect on about 564,000 acres as fol-
lows: new seedings of legumes 'and legume mixtures, perennial
grasses for pasture, and green-manure crops, 512,156 acres;
fertilizer and lime applications 43,690 acres; forest tree plant-
ings, 1,329 acres, and terracing, 6.641 acres.
Directors of districts are permitted to adapt known erosion-
control practices and measures suited to local needs and to
discover new methods of controlling different kinds of erosion
that are impoverishing the land in that particular district.
They are empowered to carry out soil-conservation operations,
such as contour-cultivation, strip-cropping, and contour-fur-
rowing or ridging of pastures. They may enter into contracts
with farmers and give them financial and other assistance;
they may buy land for retirement from cultivation and for


other erosion-control purposes; make loans and gifts to farm-
ers and ranchers of equipment, machinery, seeds, etc, take
over and operate erosion-control projects, and recommend
land-use plans for soil conservation
The functions of the State Conservation Committee are
to make the legal determinations necessary in connection with
creating a district, to encourage the organization of districts,
and to coordinate the several district programs "so far as
this may be done by advice and consultation." Members of
the State committee serve by virtue of their positions as heads
of State agricultural agencies, such as the director of the State
Agricultural Extension Service, the director of the State Agri
cultural Experiment Stations, and administrative heads of
other State agricultural units, State committeemen and di-
rectors of county conservation districts serve without pay.
They may be reimbursed, however, for expenses incurred in
carrying out their duties. Directors are permitted to hire em-
ployes to assist them. Expenses for all this work are paid
partly by farmers directly affected and partly out of State
Spectacles of destruction by unrestrained wind and water
soil-erosion throughout the country, published in newspapers
and magazines, have given sharp impetus to the efforts of the
conservationists. 'Why can't this thing be prevented?" is the
question that has risen to the lips of thousands who realize
that land destruction means impoverished families. "It can be
prevented," is the answer of expert technicians, who have
zealously taken up the task.
Backed by the money of Federal and state governments.
as well as the free advice of experts, the American farmer
is in position to enter actively into the conservationists' pro-
gram. That he has done so is evidenced by reports from
various sections of the country and the comprehensive and
widespread nature of the program is indicated by published
accounts of it from many states.
In "Soil Conservation," official organ of the soil conser-
vation service of the United States Department of Agriculture
issue of December, 1937, we learn that New England farmers
as well as those of the Mid-west, have a "dust bowl" problem.
Blowing, sandy wastes are spreading over pasture lands which
support cattle that are the only means of livelihood possessed
by many in one of the country's oldest agricultural communi-


Reforestation Work

"Since deforestation and overgrazing have been the primary
and secondary causes respectively of the sand blows." says
this publication. "reforestation and controlled grazing are the
long run methods advocated by the soil conservation service
to help farmers overcome their wind-erosion problem. For
temporary control, many farmers in the Winooski Valley area
are resorting to the use of 'whisker terraces' and strongly built
terraces of tree limbs and brush. The 'whisker terraces' are
merely bundles of brush and limbs staked around the contour
of the blows to check further drifting. They are effective on
small areas On larger blows, erosion-control technicians have
taken their cue from soil-conservation practices which check
water damage in other parts of the Northeastern states. They
are using the tree-limb fences to break the sand blows into
compartments to minimize the chances of dune formation and
smothering of adjacent grassed areas. In other words, just as
diversion terraces break up the velocity and volume of water
by reducing the size of drainage areas, so these fences break
up the shifting of sands by cutting down the 'blowing' area.
"Thousands of pine seedlings have been planted in these
tree-fence compartments in large areas, and between the
'whisker terraces' on the smaller areas. Their roots can find
a way to productive soil beneath sandy wastes, and, in years to
come, will effect a permanent cure for many a Vermont farm-
er's midget desert. Fencing is also necessary on both the large
and small areas to prevent grazing animals from browsing the
seedlings or destroying the structures built for temporary
"On many of the blows farmers are making effective use
of what would otherwise be wasteland by including wild life
plantings in the reforestation process. In the not so distant
future, farmer owners on the hills of the Winooski demon-
stration area will derive direct benefit from these plantings.
The blows will be changed from creeping, sterile wastes to
wooded thickets where fur bearers or game birds can find
homes and provide a return worth many times the effort ex.
pended in halting the miniature but growing menace of wind


Water Disposal Plans

Another article in "Soil Conservation" deals with water
disposal plans. "A water disposal plan for the entire farm is
now required as a part of all new cooperative agreements
and all agreements being amended in camp and project areas
in region 2," says (South Carolina) Ralph Fulghum, author of
the article

Such a system was adopted in South Carolina a year ago.
and water disposal plans have been made a part of almost
2,000 cooperative agreements in the State In its initial stage
the system was so successful as to merit its extension to the
entire region.

"These advanced plans have encouraged the use of vegeta-
tion in waterways, have greatly reduced the cost of the prac-
tice. and have given the farmer a better understanding of
what he needs on his farm It appears also to be one of the
best methods by which the engineer can render technical as-
sistance to large numbers of farmers in organized districts.

"Appearing somewhat like a weather map but with the
arrows representing te races instead of pressure areas, the
plan for each farm shows where the necessary terraces are
to drain. where terrace outlet channels and meadow strips will
be needed, wooded areas that should be allowed to thicken
before water is turned onto them, gullies to be vegetated
before taking water from terraces, necessary relocation of
roads, required stream-bank erosion control, pastures to be
contoured, and other measures important in a plan devised to
provide eventually complete control of all run-off water on
the farm.

"By giving careful consideration to outlet locations and
the establishment of vegetation before permitting any flow
of water, the South Carolina farmers 'and engineers are able
to take advantage of natural vegetative development. This
allows also the location of strategic points for disposal of water
and their reinforcement with vegetation, thus securing greater
distribution of outlet water and less concentration in channels



"Engineers and farmers in this region have found that by
sprigging the channels a satisfactory vegetative stand can
be established at about one-fourth the cost of strip-sodding-
a procedure necessary when the channel must take concen-
trated water immediately. The actual cost of strip-sodding six
outlet channels of about average size in one of the camp areas
was 50 cents per linear foot of channel. The average cost of
preparing and sprigging five similar channels in the same area
recently and considerably in advance of terracing was 14
cents per linear foot.
"The practice of allowing vegetation to become established
in the channel before water is turned onto it should lessen
the maintenance cost necessary to keep the channel func-
tioning properly. This is emphasized by experience in South
Carolina with sod-stripped channels which were used to carry
concentrated water before the roots had become firmly estab-
lished. In the event of heavy rains the sod was washed out.
Eliminating maintenance work will make the channel more
effective and further reduce costs.
"When the farmer has in hand a copy of the complete
water-disposal plan and knows that it is a part of his agree-
ment he has a better understanding of the complete program
needed to check erosion on his farm. It also shows him a start-
ing point as well as ,a definite goal toward which he can work.
Usually a farmer does not terrace more than a third or a
fourth of his land in a season; but with a complete plan in
mind he can start vegetation on all outlets, and build the
terraces as time permits during the next several years. With
completion of the system in sight, the farmer has every
incentive to speed up terracing.

"According to John Downing, the associate agricultural
engineer directing the work in South Carolina, one engineer
was able to make the usual water-disposal plan for a 10-acre
farm in about a half day. A good draftsman can make the
tracings to be blueprinted in two or three hours, and the
total cost other than the engineer's time for making the
average plan is between $2 and $3. This cost has been far
more than offset by the decreased cost of vegetating chan-
nels in advance and the other advantages of the plan.



"Many of the water disposal plans call for trees and other
vegetation to thicken portions of wooded areas. In about a
year's time much can be accomplished toward thickening such
areas so they can safely take water from terraces and outlets.
The plans call for full control in the form of tree and other
vegetative plantings. as well as diversion of water from the
gully where necessary to check erosion, and the filling up of
small gullies and terracing across them. Relocations of roads
that would otherwise run across planned terraces are shown
in the plans. The important thing is establishing the water-
way. however, determining where the terraces will drain, and
this the South Carolina engineers have been able to do 90 to
95 percent correctly."
The problem of water discharge from terrace ends has
been one of great concern to Southern agricultural engineers
and farmers. For many years roadside ditches were washed
out by red, bald-faced gullies and sinking fencerows furnished
evidence that it was futile to provide protection for one field
with terraces while adjoining areas were destroyed by tons
of flowing waters.
"Contributions to the ultimate solution of the problem were
provided by decreased and variable grades and level terraces
in low rainfall sections." says Harold G. Anthony, in an article
in "Soil Conservation" on meadow outlet strips built in the
State of Texas. But these expedients were inadequate, ac-
cording to Mr Anthony, who says:
"Simple to elaborate individual outlet and outlet-channel
structures of concrete, rock. asphalt, wood, and other materials
put in their appearance; and no one could deny their effec-
tiveness nor their importance as contributions to the final
solution for safely handling terrace water. Progress was
being made, even though from the viewpoint of the landowner
and operator these structural outlets and channels were costly
and often prohibitive

"And then came the vegetation method of controlling ter-
race water-a procedure which in spite of periodic appear-
ances throughout the decades, was never widely adapted until


the multiphase erosion-control program of the soil conserva-
tion service began planting its roots throughout the Southland.
"Like others, this method is not all-inclusive, but it can
be used successfully only under certain conditions; but it has
proved so satisfactory wherever adapted (in this region) that
it is offered -as one of the best.
"In this region, vegetated individual terrace outlets, vege-
tated outlet channels, and meadow outlet strips have univer-
sally supplanted in effectiveness and desirability all other
schemes of "engineered" methods for disposal of terrace water.
As a matter of course, however, the method which receives
first consideration by planning groups is the outletting of
terrace water onto unburned, properly managed woodland,
well sodded pasture or established meadow. This, the most
natural and simplest plan, is used when at all possible and
"In project and camp areas (in this region), as always when
establishing outlets, the location of meadow strips is deter-
mined well in advance of terrace construction. In this way,
the outlet strip may be well established and protected by
vegetation before it is ready for actual use.
"Meadow outlet strips are located to afford protection to
the maximum number of terraced acres at the minimum
cost. To bring about this condition, when terraces approach
the maximum desirable length if possible they are brought
into the meadow outlet. Wherever practical, meadow outlets
are used as a means to terrace outlet protection.
"The meadow outlet strips should be located in a natural
depression that is large enough to carry the volume of run-
off diverted into it by the terrace system. Such depressions
must have the lowest possible grade. It is often possible to
use a location where there is a small gully or wash, by estab-
lishing the meadow on each side of the cut. Stabilization of the
small gully can be accomplished by the use of sod bags or other
vegetable control means. This stabilization measure is aided
by plowing in, or by any other method whereby the gully
banks are sufficiently sloped to allow machinery operations
and crossings. It should be pointed out here that full consid-
eration must be given to the suitability of the site selected,
and to the effect on cultivation practices in the field, before
starting construction.


"In this (Texas) region technicians have found that slopes
up to four percent can be held by meadow grasses commonly
used for hay, Bermuda grass will afford the desired protection
on slopes from four to six percent. These sod strips act as
spreaders. For protection under normal rainfall conditions,
they may extend only across the lower part of the strip chan-
nel and it is not necessary that they extend the full width of
the strip. It is also recommended that where available, Ber-
muda grass be used in the portion of the meadow outlet which
is covered by the run-off from rains of average intensity. In
order to prevent water cutting back and forming a gully along
the edge in the cultivated field, terraces should be constructed
to extend at least 12 feet m the strip.
"Experience with meadow outlet strips in the (Texas) re-
gion has shown that the last 50 or 100 feet of terraces entering
the strip should be turned somewhat downhill and the depth
of the cut on the upper side gradually reduced This will bring
the bottom of the terrace into the strip at a pomt near the
ground level without changing the normal terrace grade
"Where they are fenced, and if carefully managed, meadow
outlet strips may be grazed Stock should never be allowed on
the strips during rainy weather, however, and must not be
left at any one time long enough to form trails or to injure
the vegetative cover."
"Fields enclosed with contour fences are fields that are
easily tilled on the contour," he declares. "Fenced gullies.
it has been found, are gullies that do not grow. Fenced farm
ponds are ponds with dams, shore lines, 'and spillways not
damaged by erosion, and fenced wood lots are wood lots from
which raindrops never rush away as silt-laden flood makers.
Fences to keep livestock off eroded acres is the price Mother
Nature asks for her cooperation in providing a soil holding
cover of natural vegetation for the areas. That the price is
not considered exorbitant by Central Plains farmers is shown
by the fact that up to July 1, 1937, more than 11,000 acres of
eroding lands in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska had been
fenced for the primary purpose of protecting soil by protect-
ing plant cover.
"Concentration of livestock is responsible for a large part
of Central Great Plains erosion. That protection of the eroded


areas from livestock will retard soil movement is being dem-
onstrated on hundreds of farms where eroding areas are now
fenced. These demonstrations show that wherever plant cover
is destroyed or the climax type of vegetation thinned, a natu-
ral process of restoration sets to work as soon as the cause
of the disturbance is removed. This means that if land is
protected from grazing, fire, and concentration of run-off
water, it will soon be covered with soil-holding vegetation.

"In recent months much has been written concerning the
depletion of land resources. For the most part, however, atten-
tion has been centered on the destructive effects of soil erosion
and the physical methods required for their prevention. The
present pamphlet is an effort to meet a long-felt need for a
clear exposition of the more important economic aspects of the
soil-conservation problem and their relation to other elements
of national agricultural and industrial policy If our present
knowledge of the physical approaches required for soil con-
servation is to have widespread effect on farm practices,
economic conditions and relations must be favorable "
Acting Administrator,
Agricultural Adjustment Administration.


Soil Conservation

Its Place in National Agricultural

Prepared by Bushlod W. Allin, Program Planning Division,
Agricultural Adjustment Administlatlon.

Throughout much of American history, natural resources
have been so abundant that neither public nor private agencies
have felt any responsibility for their conservation. But during
the years since the Civil War, as the Nation has approached
maturity, a national conservation policy has been gradually
taking form.
After more than a century of indifference with respect to
all natural resources, public interest in conservation was first
aroused by the decline of fisheries and forests. The office of
Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries was established in 1871,
and 2 years later, a memorial of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science started the movement which led
ultimately to the establishment of the United States Forest
Service.' In 1886, there was created in the Department of Agri-
culture a Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy,
which later became the Bureau of Biological Survey. An act
of Congress in 1891 empowered the President to proclaim public
lands as national forests; and in 1899, the Soil Survey was be-
These represent the beginnings of conservation in the United
States; but the first real driving force back of the movement
developed only 30 years ago. An act to protect the Alaskan
fisheries was passed in 1906. The Inland Waterways Commis-
sion was established in 1907, and the National Conservation
Commission in 1908
Interest in mineral conservation also resulted in the crea-
tion m 1907 of the mining technology branch of the United
State Geological Survey, which became the Bureau of Mines
in 1910. At about the same time some of the unappropriated
mineral lands in the public domain were withdrawn from set-
tlement, and a decade later (1920) Congress passed the Mineral
Leasing Act and the Federal Water Power Act.
IFrederick G Tyron, "Conseration." Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.
Vol. 4. p 227,


At various intervals from 1904 to 1909 Theodore Roosevelt
issued proclamations setting apart for national forests much
of the unappropriated forest lands of the public domain. Later,
under the Weeks law in 1911 and the Clark-McNary law in
1923, the Federal Government was authorized to acquire addi-
tional forest areas by purchase. In setting up national forests,
forest conservation was justified not only by prospective
shortage of timber, but also by the beneficial effects of forestry
upon water conservation, stream flow, and flood control.
Public Now Is Aroused to Save the Soil
The soil is the last of the Nation's important natural re-
sources to become the object of popular conservation interest.
With recent dust storms in the West and floods in the East the
Nation is becoming increasingly conscious of the harmful ef-
fects of soil erosion. The usefulness of large dams constructed
for irrigation and the development of electric power is threat-
ened by silting. The choking of stream channels with silt is in-
terfering with navigation, and excessively muddy water pre-
vents the preservation and propagation of game fish and other
desirable forms of wild-life. Thus, the advocates of flood con-
trol and conservation of power, water, and wildlife find the
control of soil erosion necessary for accomplishing their ob-
jectives; and soil conservationists find forestry an effective
means for saving the soil.
Since the Michigan land economic survey was started in
1922, a very few other states, notably Wisconsin and New York,
have begun the development of land programs which deal defi-
nitely with forest and wildlife conservation. But not until the
last 2 or 3 years has public interest been thoroughly aroused
concerning the need for conservation of the land itself. Na-
tional agencies, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and
others, are now vigorously attacking the land-use problem m
all of its ramifications. The Soil Erosion Service was estab-
lished in the Department of the Interior in 1933, and in 1935
was transferred by executive order to the Department of Ag-
riculture as the Soil Conservation Service. Also in the inter-
est of soil conservation, the Taylor Grazing Act was enacted in
1934 to regulate grazing on a large part of the remaining public
domain; and land conservation is one of the reasons for estab-
lishment of the Resettlement Administration. The last con-
gressional action was the passage of the Soil Conservation and
Domestic Allotment Act in 1936, replacing parts of the Agri-
cultural Adjustment Act


Present misuse of the Nation's land is in part the outgrowth
of its traditional land policy. Until comparatively recent years,
that policy has been one of getting the land into private owner-
ship as rapidly as possible, without much regard to the char-
acter of the land or the use to which it was best adapted. Un-
der the homestead laws, areas ill adapted to continuous crop-
ping were homesteaded in the same manner as those less sub-
ject to destruction by wind and water. This has resulted in
the cultivation of millions of acres in the Great Plains, and
elsewhere, which never should have been plowed.
Private property rights in land have been, and still are,
virtually unlimited so far as soil conservation is concerned.
No limitations are imposed upon individual action, either be-
cause of the relative abundance of the resource or because it
is assumed that-m the matter of land management public and
private interests are necessarily identical, which is a false as-
The soil is the Nation's most valuable natural resource.
Over large areas, loss of irreplaceable topsoil through erosion
has been increasing recently at a very great rate, and depletion
of replaceable fertility by unwise cropping systems has ser-
iously affected other large areas not damaged appreciably by
erosion. Thus, soil conservation means both the control of
erosion and the maintenance of fertility. Though erosion is a
major cause of fertility losses, it is not the only cause. Nor
can the problem be dealt with adequately by individual action
alone. Public action is imperative. It is the purpose of this
bulletin to describe the national interest in the problem and its
place in national agricultural policy.

"Recent surveys of the extent of soil erosion in this country
indicate that approximately 50,000,000 acres of once fertile
land have been essentially ruined for practical cultivation.
Another 50,000,000 acres are in a condition almost as serious.
About 100,000,000 acres still in cultivation have been seriously
impoverished by the loss of soil; and about 100,000,000 acres
more of cultivated land are being depleted of productive soil at
an alarming rate."
Altogether, there are approximately a billion acres of land
in farms, about one-third of which are normally in harvested



crops. Thus, at the end of hardly more than a century of cul-
tivation for most of the country, an area equivalent to the total
now in harvested crops, or to 30 percent of all land in farms,
is either destroyed, seriously damaged or threatened. In time,
nature might rebuild a part of the land already abandoned
because of erosion-if given a chance; but in some cases cen-
turies will be required. As a practical matter, therefore, effort
should be directed to reduce the losses, or threatened losses.
on an area equivalent to about two-thirds of the Nation's total
cropland. In doing so, there is no reason for imagining that
the whole country is on the verge of washing away; for at
least a third of the cropland and 70 percent of the land in farms
is not now threatened by erosion.
The fact remains, however, that the Nation can ill afford to
remain indifferent to the possible consequences of erosion. In
terms of national existence, a century is a short span of time.
Unless effective measures are adopted, we might reasonably
expect to lose within the next 200 years all the land now threat-
ened by erosion. And if this should happen, vastly larger areas
would then be threatened. While present interest in the prob-
lem, as well as recent and prospective action concerning it, are
indications that no such dire calamities will occur, the extent to
which they are avoided depends directly upon the vigor with
which preventive measures are carried out.
Some Local Conditions More Serious
From the standpoint of local interests, the reasons for pre-
venting soil losses are even more impelling. National aver-
ages conceal more serious local conditions. For example, it is
estimated that 85 percent of the drainage area of the Dan River
in Virginia was once cleared, and that 40 percent of it has been
allowed to revert to forest because of erosion I For description
of numerous other local situations the terms "ghost communi-
ties" and "ghost farms" are entirely appropriate. Like the
"ghost towns" which were abandoned because of depletion of
forest resources, these communities and farms are monuments
to a disgraceful lack of national foresight. Some of the land
suffered the greatest erosion after being abandoned because
of inferiority for profitable cultivation, but much of it was
abandoned because of erosion.
Recent spectacular dust storms and floods have been effect-
ive in calling public attention to the dangers of erosion, and
Sp F. Kil. Tro Ceniries of Arenung Tragedy Along the Dan Rucr Feblrary
1936 issue of so cof te Soil Con~cr'alion Seritee. LUni
State Department of Agriculture. p 3.


the traveler is often impressed by the scars in the landscape
caused by gullying. But unspectacular sheet erosion is the
most insidious and destructive of all forms of erosion, and even
less visible are the enormous losses of soil fertility due to over-
cropping and improper rotations. While this country's ex-
ploitative agriculture has caused the loss of great quantities of
irreplaceable topsoil, it has at the same time mined other soil
of its replaceable fertility. Even though the soil itself is held
in place, its fertility must be maintamed; otherwise its pro
ductivity will decline Iowa is one of the more level and fer
tile States. Yet, a recent study by the Iowa State College of
Agriculture, in cooperation with the United States Department
of Agriculture, shows that under present cultural practices
Iowa cannot maintain fertility and control erosion unless corn
acreage is reduced by 20 percent This study is a part of the De-
partment of Agriculture's regional adjustment project, which
is Nation-wide in scope. Results from other States are fully
as striking as those found in Iowa and they all point in one di
reaction The Nation cannot maintain its farm plant unless it
alters its system of farming radically.
How Soil Fertility Is Lost
Adjustments in farming systems are necessary not only as
a means of reducing erosion losses of both soil and fertility, but
also for the purpose of reducing fertility losses due to other
causes Fertility or plant nutrients may be lost or removed
from the soil in four distinctly different ways (1) By erosion,
either by surface washing or by wind action, (2) by removal
of crops, (3) by leaching, and (4) by volatihzation.' Generally
speaking, erosion and crop removal cause the greatest losses.
Because cropping requires cultivation and cultivation increases
erosion losses, the two causes are manifestly inter-related, and
both are of major importance throughout most of the country
To the extent that the control of erosion maintains fertility, the
two problems are one, but, quite apart from the effects of eros-
ion, continuous removal of crops without replacing the chem-
ical elements they extract from the soil has been an important
influence impairing soil productivity. The important elements
most readily removed by cropping are nitrogen, phosphorus,
calcium, and potassium And humus, the carrier of nitro-
gen which is vastly important for many other reasons, is an-
other soil constituent often destroyed by overcroppmg as well
as by erosion.
Cyril G. Hopkins, Soil Fertility and Permanent Agriculture, Ginn and Company
I910, p. 556.


Supplies of Phosphorus Are Limited

Of all these constituents, phosphorus is the "crucial" one.
Nitrogen can be replaced by the growth of legumes and by
other means, and world supplies of lime and potash are so
abundant that they can be applied to most soils at reasonable
cost for an indefinite future. Though an expensive and often
a long-time process, humus can be replaced by such cultural
practices as applying barnyard manure and plowing under
growing crops. But because of the distinctly limited world
supply of recoverable phosphorus, the outlook is that this ele-
ment will become increasingly dear. At present, most of this
country's commercial phosphate is mined in Tennessee and
Florida, where the available supplies are being rapidly re-
duced. Eventually, it will be necessary to make use of depos-
its in some of the Western States on lands in the public do-
main which were withdrawn from settlement during the ad-
ministration of Theodore Roosevelt. The amount of phosphate
rock in the West is large compared with measured supplies in
other parts of the world, though not very great compared with
probable reserves in Africa." They represent, however, "aside
from coal and iron the most precious mineral heritage of the
However, "it is not certain that the total supply of phos-
phate rock in the southern and western States together is suf-
ficient to restore the lands of the United States to their original
fertility in phosphorus, to say nothing of providing for the
great annual loss through our present methods of handling fer-
tilizers produced on the farms, and disposal of sewage."'
More than 30 years ago it was reported that "during the past
half century in Wisconsin one-third of the original phosphorus
of the soil has been lost in the cropped fields. What has been
proved for Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and other States
where tests have been made is unquestionably true for the other
gStates in the country which have been settled for some time."s
It is probable that today the surface soils of the country as a
whole have less than half their original phosphorus content.

SBureau Du XIV Concres Geologiasu International Espagne, 1926, "Les Re.rVes
Mondiales en Phosphates", Graficas Reuinldas, S. A. 8, Barquillo, 8, Madrid, 1928,
vol. 1, p. 7.
BCharles R Van Hisr, "The Conservation of Natural Resources In the United
States". The Marcmnan Co.. 1918, p. 332.
7Charles R. Van Hise. "Preservation of the Phosphates and the Consernation o
the Soil"'. Conservation of Natural Resources, American Academy of Political and
Social Science, Philadelphia, 1919, p. 223.
SHopkins, op. cit, p. 560


To control erosion is to conserve this vital soil constituent,
because in most virgin soils it is concentrated in the upper 8
inches, having been drawn from the lower strata by plants and
deposited in the surface layer by their decay. Soils like those
of the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky are underlain by phos-
phatic limestone, but these are exceptions to the general rule.
Where phosphorus supplies in the surface soils have been de-
pleted but are abundant in the lower layers, this element is
not a limiting factor in the growth of such deep-rooted plants
as alfalfa and sweetclover, once they are established.
In emphasizing the importance of phosphorous, there is no
intention of minimizing the importance of other plant nutri-
ents. From the standpoint of an individual farmer, it is now
frequently a much less costly and more rapid operation to rem-
edy phosphorous deficiencies by applying phosphate fertilizer
than to build up humus requirements. Also, on some soils
and for a number of crops such as tobacco, there is a greater
need for potash than phosphorus. The relative importance of
the latter from a national conservation standpoint arises from
four basic facts: (1) That for most soils phosphorous deficiency
imposes a greater limitation upon crop production than
the deficiency of any other mineral element; (2) that in
relation to need, world supplies of recoverable phosphorus are
more limited than those of other important soil minerals, (3)
that a greater proportion of existing phosphorous supplies
in the soil is lost by erosion than in the case of any other miner-
al element; and (4) that it must be applied to many eroded and
depleted soils in order to grow legumes which are the best
growths for checking further erosion and restoring humus and
nitrogen requirements.
In summary, it is clear that the most serious of all soil losses
is the loss of the soil itself through the action of water and
wind Where this happens, fertility goes also. And of the var-
ious soil constituents, phosphorus is the most important from
the standpoint of long-run national interests The extent of
both soil and phosphorous loss is such as to compel the atten-
tion of everyone interested in the future productivity of the
Why should anyone be interested in the future productivity
of the land? What is meant by soil conservation? What action
should be taken, if any? Who should take it, and how? These


questions go far beyond the facts of physical soil losses. They
are social and economic questions involving not only individual
purposes and methods, but also national purposes and methods.
What does the present generation "owe" future generations?
And how far into the future do such obligations extend?
There are no exact answers It is sufficient to say that every
step forward in civilization means increased regard for the
interests of the future.

National Purposes Relating to Soil Conservation
The question is often raised as to the extent to which the
Nation should control erosion. More than a quarter of a cen-
tury ago Van Hise said, "It is plain that we must not permit
soil erosion to take place more rapidly than the soil is manu-
factured by the processes of nature. To do so will be ultimate-
ly to destroy our soils. If nature manufactures the soil at the
rate of 1 inch in a century, then the erosion must not exceed 1
inch in one century."- That the soil would be destroyed ul-
timately if erosion continues at a greater rate than soil for
nation is irrefutable logic. But for some soils "ultimately"
might be so far in the future as to be of no practical signifi-
Furthermore, in the case of certain soils, there are reasons
for preventing erosion wihch are quite unrelated to the rate
of soil formation from parent material. Large areas of the sur-
face soils of the country contain a higher percentage of sand
and have a more friable structure than the subsurface layers.
When erosion removes this sandy or root-previous surface
layer, a lower layer having a higher clay content is exposed
Some of these subsoils might never develop under natural
conditions the same desirable physical qualities possessed by
the soil removed by erosion. Gullying, moreover, proceeds
faster in subsoil than topsoil, and might so alter the topography
as to make both cultivation and moisture conservation per-
manently difficult if not impossible. With these qualifications,
Van Hise's conception of the ultimate national goal can be ac-
cepted as valid.
Thought the Nation is approaching a stationary population
and there is no prospect of an immediate shortage of land for
producing food, feed and fiber, the outlook for the future, espec-
ially the more distant future, is by no means clear. Even if all

'Van Hise, op. cet, pp. 215-16.


the land should not be needed to produce agricultural products
for domestic purposes, there is no positive assurance that it
would not be useful in production for an export market. Con-
tinued industrialization and population increases in the Orient
and in other parts of the world might greatly enlarge the ex-
port market for American farm products. Undoubtedly, sci-
ence and technology will work as great wonders m the future
as in the past. Yet, scarcely anyone would say that this is a
sound reason for permitting 200 million acres of topsoil to
wash and blow away. That would be nothmg short of a ca-
lamity. Though it were certain that all the topsoil would not
be needed to produce farm or forest products for domestic and
export purposes, it still would be valuable for conserving water
and controlling floods'"-to say nothing of its possible contri-
bution to more sightly landscapes and more abundant wildlife.
Heavy rains and melting snows will cause rivers to rise and
there will be floods regardless of the measures adopted to
save the soil, but there can be no doubt that soil conservation
would reduce the destructiveness of floods, because frequently
it is the last 10 percent of the rise in flood waters that does
most damage to life and property. Land management which
would save the soil would also increase water absorption, and
consequently reduce both the rate of run-off and the level to
which streams now rise at flood stage An investigation in Ok-
lahoma shows that over a 5-year period the run-off from land
cultivated continuously in cotton was 11 times as great as that
from land in Bermuda grass "
Adequate flood control, however, requires more than the
best conceivable soil cover. Dams must be built to check
the rate of run-off, both from farms and from major stream
channels The work of the T. V. A. in this respect is especially
significant. Recent flood waters at Chattanooga were at least
3 feet lower than they would have been if the waters of the
Powell and Clinch Rivers had not been held back by Norris
Dam.- But the usefulness of this and other dams will be im-
paired unless the reservoirs are kept comparatively free of
silt Here, then, is the most important relation of soil conser-
vation to flbod control. The soil must be kept in place if the
reservoirs are to be most effective.

1 Report of the Mississippi Valley Committee of the Public Works Admnimstration,
Oct 1, 1934,
SOutlines of Investigations and Summary of Results, 1930-35, Red Plains Sol
Erosion Experiment Station, Guthrle, o1la., Sel Conservation Service, United States
Department of Agrnultule. 1936, p 3
SEngineering News-Record, Api 2, 1936, p 496


The Oklahoma study shows that land cultivated continu-
ously in cotton lost 670 times as much soil as that covered with
Bermuda sod.'" Observations in Missouri covering a 14-year
period show that even land cultivated in a corn-wheat-clover
rotation lost 9 times as much soil as that kept in bluegrass."
Tests of recent Potomac flood waters revealed that silt in the
water represented one-half of 1 percent by volume. Though
the usual proportion for flood waters of most streams is less
than 1 percent, the amount in some cases is as high as 15 per-
cent. Hence, reduction of soil losses lessens the volume of flood
waters by reducing both the amount of run-off and the silt
load; and might often mean the difference between destructive
and relatively harmless floods. Certainly, the soil will serve
the Nation better where it is than by muddying creeks and
rivers or choking channels and costly reservoirs."

Crop Adjustments Necessary to Maintain. Fertility

Nor are these the only purposes that may be served by a
national land-use program which effectively controls erosion.
Incidentally, such a program will contribute in an important
measure toward solving the immediate problem of balancing
agricultural production with effective demand, and thereby
tend to maintain farm income at reasonable levels. It was
discovered as a result of the regional adjustment project of the
Department of Agriculture that in order to check soil erosion
and depletion, farmers of the Corn Belt would have to reduce
their acreage of corn and oats and increase their acreage of
soil-building crops such as legumes, hay, and pasture.'0 South-
ern farmers would have to decrease their cotton acreage and
increase their acreage in pasture and feed crops other than
corn. In the wheat-producing sections of the Great Plains and

i3 See footnote 11.
"M F. Miller and H. H. Krusekopf. The Influence of Systems of Cropping and
Methods of Culture on Surface Run-off and Eoil Erosion, Missouri Agricultural
Experiment Station, Recearch Bulletin No. 177, Columbia, Mo 3, p. 17
"j. C. Stevens. "The Silt Problem', Proceedings of The Anmerican Society of Civil
Engineers, October 1934. pp. 1181-B2 and 1207. Referring to such reservoirs as eoulder
Dam. the author says, "Ultimaely, however, within some definite number of genera-
tions, the fat mut be aced that all these reservoirs wi have become useless for
storage purposes The dependent peoples must then be reduced to those that can
subsist on the areas which the unconserved flow of the river will irrigate.
"Except on certmn small reservoir, for municipal or industrial purposes, t is
generally impracticable to remove any substantial quantity of silt from reservoir
after II has been deported The most practicable remedy lies i preventing per-
manent .uiolts "
Orns V. Wells, "The Relgonal Adjustment Project A Summary and Some
Suggesions for Further Work". an address before the annual con-ention of the
Association of Land-Grant Colleges and Universitles Nov 20, 1935, mimeographed b1
the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. United States Department of Agriculture


the Pacific Northwest, wheat acreage would have to be re-
duced, and low-yielding land would have to be taken out of pro-
duction. Results of the project indicate that in the semi-arid
range region, the number of cattle and sheep on the range
should be stabilized at or near the present low level in order to
restore the grass cover and check wind erosion.
Can Nation Afford to Save the Soil?
To pass the soil on to succeeding generations as nearly un-
impaired as possible is generally recognized as a worthy na-
tional purpose This requires the control of erosion and the
maintenance of fertility. Can the Nation afford to carry out
this purpose? The contention has been made that it cannot
afford not to do so. "It is a first principle of political science
that the State has immortal life States have perished in the
past, but political and economic science cannot take into ac
count the possibility that our own national life will ever cease
to exist. All wise plans must be based upon the hypothesis
of continued national existence."" Conservation means the
greatest good for the greatest number for the longest possible
period of time, with due regard for the interests of each suc-
ceeding generation
Whether the Nation can afford to save the soil is a question
that cannot be answered solely in dollars and cents, but a few
observations in these terms are pertinent. The half billion
dollars expected to be appropriated annually under the Soil
Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936 is the equiv-
alent of one-half to 1 percent of the national income for a single
year, which ranges from 50 billions in depression to 100 billions
in prosperity. It is equivalent, moreover, to 5 percent of the
value of the 200 million acres of eroding land, assuming that
such land has an average vale of $50 per acre. And it is at
least doubtful that the value is this great
The real questions, then, seem to relate not to purpose but
to method, and appropriate methods can evolve only from a
clear understanding of the reasons for present failure to con-
serve the soil. Fundamentally, there are three reasons (1)
Individuals do not always know their own interests, (2) their
interests in soil conservation and those of the Nation frequent-
ly are not identical, and (3) individuals do not always possess
the personal qualities and economic power needed for pursuing
their interests.
SEly, et al, The Foundation of National Prosperity, The Macmnilan Co. 19232
pp 36-37.


The Role of Education and Research
Unquestionably, one important reason for abuse and misuse
of the land is that many operators are either unaware of its
possible consequences for themselves as individuals, or lack the
technical knowledge required for the maintenance of soil pro-
ductivity. Technical research and educational work can be
expected eventually to minimize the importance of this cause.
Due in large measure to the pioneering efforts of H. H.
Bennett and others of the Division of Soil Survey, the Soil
Conservation Service was established in 1935 to: (1) Conduct
"investigations into the character and extent of soil and water
losses and for the development of measures and practices of
soil and water conservation to provide for flood control and
the conservation of national land resources", (2) engage in
"conservation operations, involving the carrying out of proper
land use and soil and water conservation practices on project
demonstration areas, and the application of such practices on
extensive areas of publicly owned lands and in other designated
work areas", and (3) foster "the general application of soil con-
servation practices through consultation services and educa-
tional 'and informational means.""
This agency, therefore, is attacking the problem partly
through the medium of education and research. Demonstra-
tion projects widely distributed throughout the United States
involve 6,500,000 'acres of privately owned land The labor of
450 C. C. C. camps is being employed in other demonstrations
covering 7,000,000 more acres, most of which is privately
owned. In addition to the demonstration projects on private
land, erosion control activities are being carried out on three
large areas of federally owned land representing a total of
39,000,000 acres. Also, 12 regional erosion experiment sta-
tions have been established Such activities as the Soil Con-
servation Service is now engaged in representing the real be-
ginning of a vast undertaking. Meanwhile, agricultural col-
leges and experiment stations continue research on all phases
of soil management, and the extension services continue to
take the results to farmers. The work of the soil scientist is
both scientific and impressive
Yet, over large areas, it is easy to overestimate the relative
importance of education and research as a means for saving the
soil. It is for this reason that the Soil Conservation Service in-

From affiieals of the Soil Conernvtin Ser ice,


cludes in its program the provision of technical services as well
as instruction. The cost of these services is defrayed by public
funds. And the fact that in the soil erosion demonstration
projects the Federal Government frequently furnishes a part of
the necessary labor, seed, lime, fertilizer, and fencing materials
has a significance much deeper than that of an educational
technique. It suggests that the usefulness of education alone
is distinctly limited. The two most obvious limitations are
that the interests of many farmers in soil conservation are not
the same as those of the Nation, and that even those individuals
whose interests are adequate frequently are unable to follow
sound practices because of the collective economic pressures
under which they actually operate

National and Individual Purposes May Be in Conflict
Nothing is more apparent in economic life than that every
individual's interests are of two kinds-his interests as an indi-
vidual, and his interests as a member of a group. These two
interests may be, and often are, in conflict. National interest,
public purpose, or the interest of "society" rarely (if ever)
means the interest of every individual, and never means an
interest in which every individual is equally interested-either
absolutely or in relation to his interests as an individual Na-
tional purpose is the purpose of the majority. Through con-
trol of the army and the police force, the majority can agree
to collect taxes wherever the taxes can be found, in order to
accomphsh its purpose. Individuals cannot do this. Unlike
the Nation, many farmers cannot afford to save the soil.
Others have little or no economic incentive to do so, however
much their intellectual and emotional interests might persuade
Where farmers have both the opportunity and expectation
of operating their farms for a period of 10 to 20 years, science
and experience agree that generally those practices which
will save the soil of land that should be in cultivation are also
the most profitable for the individual in the long run. Many
of the best farmers have already adopted such practices And
the fact that they regard their farms as permanent homes as
well as businesses is an additional powerful incentive for con-
servation. Immediate interests, moreover, frequently require
practices more conducive to soil conservation than those in
use. But even if all farmers thoroughly understood then- in-
terests and had perfect knowledge of the physical techniques


required for soil conservation, large areas of land would still
be subjected to erosion and depletion unless present economic
relations are changed These relations are institutional in
character. They are the forces of collective action, govern-
mental and non-governmental; not of individual action.
Of what use is it to educate a tenant or a sharecropper, with
a 1-year lease and an inadequate income, on the physical tech-
nique of sbil conservation? What is soil "waste" to the Na-
tion is most frequently not waste at all to him. And of what
use is it to teach a landlord the same subject if his primary in-
terest in the land is that of a speculator-to sell it as quickly
as possible to someone else, and in the meantime to take all he
can from the land without reducing the selling price unduly?

Land Tenure, Land Values, and the American System
These questions refer to basic forces in what has been
called the "American system", which must be taken into ac-
count in any conservation program if it is to be effective. Un-
til about the beginning of the present century land resources
were abundant; and in the interest of settlement, it was the na-
tional policy to dispose of the public domain as quickly as pos-
sible Grants were made right and left to all sorts of groups
and individuals. Many persons in the United States considered
land as something to be acquired and exploited or resold at a
profit. "During the 1850's and 1860's there passed into the
hands of western railroad promoters and builders a total of
158.293.000 acres, an area almost equaling that of the New
England States, New York, and Pennsylvania combined.""
This quick transfer of the land from public to private own-
ership was accompanied by settlement and rapid rise in land
values. Between 1850 and 1890 the average value per acre of
farm real estate practically doubled, and from 1900 to 1920 it
almost doubled twice. With the exception of the census at the
close of the nineties, following a period of extremely low farm
prices, no census prior to that of 1925 failed to show an increase
in farm real-estate values. The figures for every census year
since 1850 are as follows:
Year: Dollars per acre Year: Dollars per acre
1850 11 14 1910 39.60
1860 1G 63 1920 69.38
1870 18 26 1925 53.52
1880 19 02 1930 4852
1890 21.31 1935 preliminary 31.16
IE00 1891
HB H Hibhhb d, Lnnd Griants", Encyclopedi, of The Social Sciences, p, 35


The almost continuous increase in land values prior to 1920
gave rise to the often-repeated witticism that "farming is the
only business in which a man can lose money all his life and
die rich It made speculators out of most landowners-farm-
ers as well as others. And speculators are not soil conservers.
Speculators are buyers and sellers who are not much concerned
with a future generation's interest in any particular parcel
of land.
Absentee Ownership and Speculation
Absentee ownership and tenancy are inextricably associated
with speculation. From 1880 to 1930 the proportion of farms
operated by tenants increased from 25.6 percent to 42 4 percent,
and every intervening census showed an increase over the
preceding one. In 1935, however, 42.1 percent of the farms were
operated by tenants. This is the first census in history report
ing a decrease in percentage of tenants. But the entire decrease
was due to changes which occurred in the South Outside the
South tenancy continued to increase, and the greatest increases
occurred in the North Central States where the percentage of
tenancy was already high. To what extent was this due to the
fact that the depression was forcing owners to give up titles
to their farms and become tenants? What is more significant
from the standpoint of soil conservation is the fact that from
1930 to 1935 the value per acre of tenant-operated farms showed
a greater proportionate dechne than that of owner-operated
farms. Does not this fact reflect a lesser interest on the part of
tenants in the long-time consequences of their cropping and
cultural practices?
American tenancy is short-lease tenancy. Short leases fa-
cilitate speculation: the speculator usually does not want any
agreement with tenants to interfere for too long a period with
his buying and selling activities Many tenants, too. prefer
short leases, partly because of nothing more tangible than the
urge to move. And since landlords do not customarily compen
sate tenants for improvements in soil fertility, there is little
reason why the tenant should conserve the soil. It is generally
to his interest to get all out of it that he can before he moves
to the next farm, and to exploit each farm he rents as com-
pletely as possible.
But it cannot be said that tenancy, as such, is the limiting
factor in soil conservation. It is the form of tenancy that is the
real issue, and neither the tenant nor the landlord is individual-


ly responsible for that form. It is an economic and social institu-
tion. which is an outgrowth of conditions partly determined
by past public policy.
Land ownership in an earlier day meant social prestige, as it
still does in England- where more- than a quarter of the farms
are operated by tenants. Because of pride in ownership, many
of the estates are subsidized by the non-agricultural income of
the landlord. The modern English landlord parts with his
estate more frequently than did his feudal ancestor, the lord
of the manor, but he holds it distinctly longer than the aver-
age American landlord. Similarly, the modern English tenant
moves more frequently than the serfs and vassals of feudal
times, but his migrations are as nothing compared with those
of the American sharecropper. English tenants have a direct
economic interest in maintaining and improving the estates
they operate. They are either paid for their services or have
such long tenure that they are able to reap the rewards of their
In the ante-bellum days of the South there existed this same
English tradition of social prestige associated with land owner-
ship, though unlike the English estates, those of the South were
maintained by slave labor. While the culture of Mount Vernon
and Monticello was not inimical to soil conservation, only a
comparatively small fraction of American farm land, even of
that in the South, was ever owned by "landed gentry". When
that ownership passed from the aristocrats to the lower and
middle classes much of the land, along with other areas
throughout the country, was caught in the surge of American
competition and speculation-and washed away. This is not
to say that under the pre-Civil War plantation system the soil
was treated any better than, or even as well as, some small
owner-operators have treated it since. It means only that be-
cause many of the plantations were owned by people who had
a long-time interest in them, they were probably less badly
abused than under the more recent sharecropper system

Small Owner-Operators May or May Not Have a Long-Time
Interest in Their Farms
It should not be understood that a long-time interest in
land ownership and land conservation is confined to a "landed
aristocracy." European agriculture, generally, has an entirely
different historical background from that of the United States.


A very large proportion of the farms in Europe are rarely
ever sold. They pass down from generation to generation
within the same family; and tenancy is relatively small in
some countries such as Germany, where it hardly exceeds 10
percent. The individual owner-operator is linked to the past
by a particular parcel of land and expects it to remain "in the
family" for the indefinite future
But the American system has been a complex of forces un-
restrained by status or primogemture. Tenants and absentee
landlords are not the only farmers without long-time interest
in particular parcels of land Though the number is perhaps
much smaller today than formerly, there are probably owner-
operators in Iowa still nursing the ambition to live near former
neighbors again by migrating to Los Angeles and Hollywood.
Others are educating their children for nonfarm occupations
and hoping to sell the farm at the first favorable opportunity
Still others are seeking to "make a deal" for a better farm. And
so it goes-most landlords and tenants, and a significant propor-
tion of owner-operators, all looking elsewhere from the land
they now operate. Altogether, it is probable that at least half
the farms are thus affected. Truly, it was inevitable that the
"old homestead" should have rough usage under this system.
Affection for or sustained interest in particular sites was bound
for a pioneer economy are positive evils when retained after
there is no more wilderness to conquer.

Free versus Fair Competition
These are not all the forces in the system working against
conservation. While agriculture has remained exposed to the
vicissiture of free competition within its ranks, business has
steadily evolved controls in its own interest under the name
of "fair" competition. Until 1920, steadily rising land values
(and homestead land as long as it lasted) concealed the fact
that ultimately agriculture would have to develop its own con-
trols in self defense, and that many of the practices appropriate
for a iponeer economy are positive evils when retained after
there is no more wilderness to conqur.
It was not by accident that the conservation movement be-
gan 30 years ago. The end of the "unlimited" public domain
was in sight; and individuals seeking their own interests in
the name of rugged individualism had taken such flagrant ad-
vantage of everyone else as to invoke widespread wrath. To


keep greed and special privilege from getting an increasingly
unfair share of land, mineral, forest, and other resources was a
part of Theodore Roosevelt's "trust busting" efforts. This re-
distribution-of-wealth motive was the real spark that arrayed
public support behind the efforts of the conservationists. Con-
cern for the interests of the more remote as well as the imme-
diate future and a desire to prevent waste were contributing
influences, but they were insignificant compared with the ef-
fect of indignation aroused by the steals and frauds perpetrated
by and against people of that day.
During this entire period, to maintain the "status quo" has
been to maintain a system of resource exploitation. Thus it
happens that among those known as "liberals" have been the
ardent conservers, and among those known as "conservatives"
have been the ruthless wasters.
Effective interest in soil conservation first developed after
the longest decline of farm real-estate values in history. Every
year from 1920 to 1933 showed a decrease in values from the
preceding year; and throughout much of the period, agricul-
ture was virtually in a state of economic collapse. There had
been hard times before, but never had there been the necessity
of reducing such a heavy debt and tax structure as existed dur-
ing this period What was more important, wide disparities
between farm and non-farm prices were long sustained. Fun-
damentally, these disparities meant that there was a lack of
balance between agricultural and nonagricultural production.
It was apparent that the difficulties were due in large measure
to the existence of free competition in agriculture alongside
regulated competition in business. Less than 18 months after
the collapse of farm prices in 1920, Professor Ely warned that
"in our own country there must be a proper proportion between
agricultural production and the production of nonagricultural
goods and services. This is fundamental in the establishment
of a national land policy."2" Yet, for more than a decade,
nothing effective was done to bring about that "proper pro-
Free competition in agriculture continued. Fair competi-
tion and reasonable farm prices did not prevail because no
action was taken to coordinate the farmer's individual and
collective interests. These were in conflict. His individual

SRihchard T. Ely, "A National Policy for Land Utilization", Report of The National
Agriculturat Conference, printed in H. Doe 195, 67th Cong, 2d Sess Washbngton.
D C. 122a, p. 117


interest was to produce as large a proportion of the total supply
of farm produce as possible, while his collective interest was in
not producing so much that the price was unduly depressed.
Failue to substitute fair competition for free competition
was the reason that throughout the period from 1920 to 1933,
even those farmers who have, and recognized that they have,
a long-time economic interest in conserving the soil were in
many cases too hard pressed to do so. Low prices for what
they sold, high prices for what they bought, heavy mortgages,
high interest rates, and heavy taxation compelled many of them
to act contrary to their own longrun interests in order to re-
tain title to their farms. They depleted their soil and other
capital to meet necessary fixed charges, and hoped that at some
future time they might be able to replace this capital. But
despite such efforts thousands failed to meet the charges and
were subjected to foreclosure proceedings
Soil Conservation Requires Economic and Social Changes
Thus, it is clear that the soil conservation problem is in
large measure one of developing an economic policy in line
with physical necessities. As such, the method appropriate
for dealing with it must include economic and social techni-
ques which provide adequate inducements for or remove exist-
ing handicaps to the adoption of proper physical techniques.
If the broad objective of soil conservation is fundamentally
sound, if the economic interest of a large proportion of farmers
in conserving the soil is too limited for national purposes, and
if many of those who have sufficient interest are without ade-
quate income, what must be the principal characteristics of
desirable policy?
The economic, social, and political fact of paramount im-
portance in the formation of any national soil conservation
program is that the Nation's farm land is operated as more
than 6 million separate enterprises by people who represent
the most individualistic class of American society. There are
probably half as many separate owners, who now have, and
very likely will continue to have, authority to do virtually as
they please with land they own. A national program, there-
fore, must come to terms with millions of owners and operators,
or the overwhelming majority of them, and it cannot be put in-
to effect by Federal compulsion. It seems improbable, more-
over, that a local compulsion will be employed except in con-
nection wtih attempts to control the most spectacular forms
of erosion Texas recently has given power to county judges


and county commissioners of nine Panhandle counties to con-
trol wind erosion on farms of individuals who refuse to do so,
and to charge the costs to the owners." The law was aimed
mainly at nonresidents who own 30 percent of the farms, and
is one of the first instances of its kind on record. As yet, there
is no instance of local compulsion to control other destructive,
though less spectacular, forms of erosion.
A second highly important practical aspect of the problem
is the extreme variation in both technical and economic ad-
justments appropriate for regions, communities, and individual
farms. No State or Federal agency has all the knowledge and
skill required for such adjustments, if they are to be made
with any consideration for the people now living on the land.
The task is one in which individuals, communities, the States
and the Federal Government can all participate. In fact, if
local, State, or national programs are to be successful, there
must be a maximum of farmer participation in both their for-
mulation and administration. The soil scientist and other ex-
perts working alone cannot work out the best program; and
even if they could, farmer approval and assistance would be
required for its administration.
In the field of land use, as in other matters, experience has
condemned the classical doctrine that private initiative and
self-interest can be depended upon to protect adequately the
public need. But the most hopeful procedure for harmonizing
private and public interests is the employment of collective
persuasions and inducements democratically determined.

County Agricultural Planning
During the past year a national project for county agricul-
tural adjustment planning was inaugurated in cooperation with
the Extension Service. This project was designed to meet the
need for greater participation by farmers in the formulation
and administration ot adjustment programs. In October of
1935, a start was made toward setting up in each agricultural
county of the United States an adjustment planning commit-
tee of 10 to 20 members representing the various agricultural
interests of the county. At the present time, such committees
exist or are in the process of being established in most of the
agricultural counties of the country. Each committee, with
the assistance of community committees and subcommittees.

lHou-e Bill No 97l fTe'aal. PaCd May 21, 1935,


is undertaking to build a long-time adjustment program for
its county. As a first task, it is seeking to determine changes
in local cropping systems necessary to maintain fertility and
control erosion, and the possible effects of such changes on pro-
duction This requires a careful appraisal of the problem in
each local community.

For some farms, the limiting factor in soil conservation is
the lack of technical knowledge on the part of operators as to
either the damage being done by present practices or the
change in practices necessary for soil protection. As previous-
ly noted, however, it is exceedingly doubtful that more than
half of all farms are in the hands of people whose interest in
them extends into the future sufficiently to encourage the adop-
tion of adequate soil-conservation measures. Adding to this
number all those farms in which the owners do have such an
interest but are financially unable to do anything about it, it
is reasonably certain that 'at least two-thirds of all farms are
held by people who cannot be expected to do what needs to
be done if they are merely informed as to the seriousness of
soil losses and the techniques for preventing erosion. Thus,
besides an expansion and development of the research, edu
national, and cooperative activities of the Soil Conservation
Service of the Department of Agriculture, three separate
though related types of remedial action are required, as fol-
lows. (1) Direct subsidy to landowners and operators, (2) stab-
ilization of farm prices and income, and (3) shifts in population
and changes in size of farms.

Direct Subsidy to Landowners and Operators
Production allotments and benefit payments under the na-
tional agricultural adjustment programs of the last 2 years
have already had important effects on agricultural land use
Both in 1934 and in 1935, more than 10 million acres of crop
land throughout the country were shifted from cultivated
crops to soil-conserving legumes and grasses, under adjustment
contracts with farmers.
So far as use of submarginal land in the so-called problem
areas is concerned, there are only three alternatives for na-
tional policy. (1) To permit individuals to continue exploiting
soils that never should have been plowed, (2) to devote the land


to its best permanent use (such as forests, parks, game pre-
serves, grazing districts, etc.), and remove the surplus popula-
tion, and (3) to retire the land from cultivation and subsidize
the surplus population "in place". If the soil is to be conserved,
only the last two of these alternatives exist.
If all the land that never should have been plowed could
be permanently retired from cultivation and covered with
grass and trees, much of what is here described as the soil
conservation problem would be solved, and it is probable that
a substantial proportion of the land in this class is in the prob-
lem areas. Yet, there would still remain the important, though
less acute, problem of conserving soil which is agricultural
soil and which might well be in cultivation at least a part of the
time. This problem does not involve the migration of surplus
population; but it does require that positive incentives for soil
conservation be provided. The primary reason is, as previous-
ly pointed out, that a distinct majority of farmers either have
no long-time interest in the land they operate or are financially
unable to pursue that interest. And besides this reason, there
is the additional reason that because of past neglect erosion on
some farms has already reached the stage where the cost of
controlling it exceeds the value of the land." But since ero-
sion, once it gets started, tends to spread at an increasingly
rapid rate, the community must control it on such farms in
orders to protect other farms not yet affected. If the soil is to
be conserved, the Nation has no choice but to subsidize soil
conservation on individual farms until fundamental economic
and social arrangements are so revised as to provide the neces-
sary inducements. The three forms of subsidy now being given
are benefit payments of the Agricultural Adjustment Admin-
istration, supplies and technical services of the Soil Conserva-
tion Service, and phosphates of the Tennessee Valley Au-

Stabilization of Farm Prices and Income
Probably no changes in economic conditions contribute
more toward fostering a wider individual interest in soil con-
servation than those which would tend to reduce land specu-
lation and land "booms". The Nation is approaching a sta-
tionary population, which means that the long-time outlook

W C Lowdermlk, "Erosion in the Orent as Related to Soil Conservation m
Amenrca", Journal of The American Society of Agronomy. April 1929. P 413


is for comparatively little increase in land values due to popu-
lation growth This iemlove one influence which h;as tended
in the past to encourage speculative interest.
Stable land values Ire associated with stable ownership
and a minimum of speculation. and all of these aie but reflec-
tions of relative stability In farm prices and incomes Thus.
It is not only the level of prices and income that is important
from the standpoint of soil conservation but it is also the sta-
bility of that level. There is evidence that excessively high
prices serve nearly is much as low pl ices to induce soil explol-
tation The elation between -il conservationn and farm in-
come is most apparent in such pioblenlm are, as the C eat
Plains. IIigh prices for wheat caused destruction of sod neces-
sary for soil protection; and though subsequent low prices
caused abandonment of many of these lands the winld was
able to cet in its woik before new ,od could be grown.
It should not be supposed, however, that stable incomes at
any level would serve the cause fl collnserCivaton equally well.
American farmers will not live undei conditions of stlbilied
poverty and .ave the sol: at the s.ame time As lonz ai farm-
ers want to drive automobiles and live like other Americans.
they will heavily discount the future if IlecesiSily in order to
do so. The more they discount the future, the less they will
save tle soil for future generations. and the lower their in-
come. te r til m the\ will discount the future.
Hence. the problem Is one of balancing present and future
needs. As previously noted, ain Individual's interest in a par-
ticular parcel of land may be folr only a year, and rarely ex-
tends beyond a generation or so: whereas the Nation's interest
is reckoned in centuries. The heavier rate at which the indi-
vidual discounts the future is the simple economic principle
underlying the whole problem of conservation. For practical
purposes, however, national interest would be reasonably well
served if the individual's interest extended only to the next
generation But any farmer who is unable to meet his present
standard of living. whatever that standard mlay be. will cer-
tainly devote little effortt to saving the soil where it means
any sacrifice of present income. If the n.ltion would save the
soil on all farms, it must assume responsibility not onlv for
insuring such individuals against loss of present income, but
also for maintaining a reasonable level of income


Shifts in Population and Changes in Size of Farms
A reasonable level of farm income cannot be maintained
indefinitely in submarginal areas, except by unreasonable
subsidies. In many instances, the farms are too small to make
possible, without subsidy. the type of agriculture required to
conserve the soil. Much of the land should be permanently
retired from cultivation because of either its susceptibility to
erosion or its poor quality. To change the size of farms so
as to make possible a permanent and profitable agriculture and
to retire from cultivation lands better adapted to grazing and
forest use. large-scale migration must occur ultimately. Migra-
tion will either be forced by soil wastage. as has already
occurred in many areas, or it will be planned for and carried
out at public expense before the land is destroyed. Even in
1930. large subsidies would have been necessary to carry out
immediately a sound land-use program in the problem areas,
unless at least 2 million people on farms in these areas could
have moved promptly either to cities or to better farm lands.
This number includes a half million in the Southern Appa-
lachians, a million in the Old Cotton Belt, and a half million
in the Great Plains and in such smaller problem areas as the
Ozark Plateaus 2

Depression Added to Farm Population Surplus
in Problem Areas
Excepting the Great Plains area. a disproportionate share of
the 3 million added to the farm population during the depres-
sion has been added to the populations of problem 'areas. A
recent analysis of school census data of a representative group
of States shows that nearly three-fourths of the total increase
from 1930 to 1933 in school population of agricultural counties
occurred in counties classified as the poorest half in each State,
and 40 per cent took place in those defined as the poorest
quarter." Thus, the greatest increases occurred where there
was already an excessive pressure of population against an
inadequate resource. Relief loads of many counties in the
problem areas are among the largest in the country. Of the
Blhrod W Allln, "Migration nReqiled foi nest Lond Use", a pnper presented
,t 'he wcnl-'ixtl ann al meetIn2 of lth Anmeican Firm Ecooinimk Associol.n,
ew- York City. Dpeembe- 27 1935.
Fop he details 'pporticng eDtmant included here ce the Iorthcomin report
of the Study of Populr on f Redistrbution. Mi ~atmon and Econao ic Opporiinit. :o be
pbli h-dd shortlyy b the LUnerity of Penll alnia Pre,. Philadtflpha Pa
Gooirich, Allam. and H.aine,. Study of Population Red'str'bulion. MIigratlon and
Plane of Lti isi inn-,19 I, Uni.lerstL of Prnnsylvaniai Prres. Phladelphia. Pan 6I


29 counties in the United States that had more than 36 per
cent of their population on relief in 1933-34, 23 are in poor-
land areas. Much of the land in the Southern Appalachians
and the Old Cotton Belt has a slope so steep that it cannot be
plowed without serious soil wastage, and an increasing farm
population cannot maintain even the present low levels of
living without cultivating these slopes A progressive lowering
of living standards is inevitable unless the migration of the
depression period is reversed.
The increases were greater in the poor-land areas because
birth rates are higher and land values are lower than in the
better farming regions. The back-to-the-land migration, more-
over, was to the same places from which large numbers had
migrated to cities during the prosperous twenties. However
much of the nation might experiment with "repeatable demon-
strations" of desirable land-use projects in these regions, the
chronic difficulties causing misuse of the land must be elimi-
nated if the problem is to be dealt with adequately. This
means that any program designed to prevent the use of poor
land as a shock absorber for industrial unemployment will have
to provide opportunities as good or better than that of attempt
ing to eke out an existence by cultivating eroding hillsides.
As previously noted, however, this would constitute only a
partial solution of the land-use problems in the "problem
areas", for the present surplus population in these areas
consists of not only the increase that occurred since 1930 but
also a significant portion of the 1930 population.
The problem areas cannot maintain their present popula-
tions on an adequate standard of living. Devoting lands in
these areas to their best permanent uses would sustain fewer
people on a higher level of living, and would release those not
needed on the land for better opportunities elsewhere. An
acute problem of the present time is how to provide this seg-
ment of the nation's man-power with an opportunity to produce
a decent living, without exploiting soil resources. Proper
land use for the problem areas might mean a total farm popu
lation in the United States of 4 million fewer people, or about
seven-eighths of the present number. The entire 4 million
could leave agriculture and the total volume of farm products
could be increased at the same time. Prior to the depression,
when the farm population was 3 million less than at present.
agricultural production was greater


Industrial Recovery May Relieve Population Pressure
on Farms in Problem Areas
The productive capacity of this nation is not so limited as
to deny it the privilege of providing decent maintenance for
the victims of its business cycles. Apparently, present Federal
relief policy is based on this assumption. Had the relief policy
been niggardly, the back-to-the-land movement undoubtedly
would have been greater, farmers would have borne a larger
share of the burden of unemployment relief, and more soils
which should never be plowed would have been exploited
and subjected to the effects of erosion.
With industrial recovery, much of the surplus population
in problem areas can be expected to migrate to urban centers.
The improvement in general economic conditions that has
already occurred during the last 2 years has reduced the rate
of population increase in these areas below that of the first
years of the depression. But even if industrial recovery
should draw the surplus population from the farms to the
cities, mistakes in land use would occur again in connection
with the next industrial depression unless positive public
action were taken to prevent their recurrence. Such action
would include not only a system of social security, but
also land-use zoning and public purchase. At best, however,
these are long-time procedures In the meantime, emergency
measures must be adopted if the rapid rate of soil destruction
in some of the problem areas is to be arrested

The foregoing analysis of the broader economic implications
of soil conservation leads logically to a consideration of its
place in national agricultural policy. The goal of such a policy
is to bring about that use of land which will provide consumers
with continuous and abundant supplies of farm produce at
reasonable prices, yield a reasonable income to farmers, and
at the same time maintain soil fertility and control erosion.
The goal is not merely to conserve the soil Nor is the purpose
to conserve the soil only to protect the interests of the more
remote future. Conservation thus interpreted has never had
any popular appeal, and probably never will have. To be
successful, an adequate soil-conservation program must appeal
to the farmer's immediate as well as his long-time interests.


By paying the cost of technical services which farmers cannot
afford, the Soil Conservation Service appeals to both interests
Conservation provisions of the present national agricultural
program are linked inseparably with other broad objectives
of immediate interest to the farmer Among the declared
purposes of the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act
are: (1) To conserve soil resources. (2) to protect rivers and
harbors against the results of soil erosion in aid of maintaining
navigability and in aid of flood control, and (3) to reestablish
and maintain the pre-war ratio between the per capital pur-
chasing power of farm and non-farm income. In seeking these
objectives, it is also declared that due regard shall be given
to the maintenance of a continuous and stable supply of agri-
cultural commodities adequate to meet consumer demand at
prices fair to both producers and consumers.) "Aiming at
justice for agriculture and self-interest for the nation, the
plan seeks to salvage and conserve the greatest values in
human life and resources with which this nation is endowed."-

Efficient Use of Soil Resources
The program has been condemned by some as "subterfuge",
as an attempt to nullify the Supreme Court's decision in the
Hoosac Mills case by changing words rathci than purposes,
as an attempt only to continue the emergency crop control
features of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Nothing could
be farther from the truth. Long before the court's decision,
farmers and their leaders were aware of the need for revising
the emergency program to meet the requirements of a sound
long-time program. And on October 25, 1935, more than 2
months before the decision, the President said concerning the
Agricultural Adjustment Act that
it never was the idea of the men who framed the act. of those in Con-
gress who revised it, nor of Henry Wallace nor Chester Davis that
the Agiicultual Adjustment Admmnistration should be either a mere
emergency operation or a static agency. It was their intention-as
it is mine-to pass fiom the purely emergency phases necessitated by
a give national cliss to a long-time, more permanent plan for
American agriculture.
He then went on to say

Pubbl No. I61. 74th Cong IS 37T l ce 7 fa).
Stlatcment by President Franklin D Rooseelt issued at Ihe t-m of signing
the Soil Con'.eratln n and Domestic Alotment At M.inicographed March2 2. 1936, by
the Agrlclltiural AIdjutmii ent Adrmnisratlon. Washington, D C


Such a long-time program is developing naturally out of the present
adjustment efforts. As I see it. this program has two principal objec-
tives: First, to carry out the declared policy of Congress to maintain
and increase the gains thus far made, thereby avoiding the danger of
a slump back into the conditions brought about by our national neglect
of agriculture Second, to broaden present adjustment operations so
as to give farmers increasing incentives for conservation and efficient
use of the nation's soil resources.
The long-time and more permanent adjustment program will pro-
vide positive incentives for soil conservation The benefit payments
can be made on a basis that will encourage individual farmers to adopt
sound farm management, crop rotation, and soil conservation methods
The crop msurance feature afforded by benefit payments will help
farmers to maintain these beneficial systems of farming without
interruption in poor crop years. Long-time adjustments can be adapted
to natural soil advantages of regions and localities. Already the
adjustment administration has under way local studies to help in
woLking out farm programs on a county basis, so as to fit the best
permanent use of the varying soil resources of the country up to that
county's share of available domestic and foreign markets. Thus. plans
are bemg worked out that should encourage widespread cooperation
of fal mers in a permanent national soil-maintenance program."

Soil Conservation and Production Adjustments
Are Inter-related

The court's decision accelerated the development of the
long-time aspects of national 'agricultural policy and invalh-
dated a part of existing procedure for accomplishing the
immediate objectives. Whereas, under the first emergency
program of maintenance of reasonable farm prices and in-
comes by means of crop control was necessarily the major
purpose and soil conservation was incidental, under the present
program soil conservation becomes a more important objective
and the maintenance of reasonable farm prices becomes no less
important True, the Federal Government can no longer con-
trol output by contracts with individual producers in order to
maintain prices, but it can grant financial assistance to States
for the same purpose. The 1936 act provides for this procedure.
As previously pointed out, results of the regional adjustment
project indicate rather clearly that a national program designed
solely to conserve the soil would tend to reduce the output of
those crops recently affected by unsalable surpluses Also,
experience under the emergency adjustment programs has
r" IsIud il nmncogiaph form at the While Houre as a staieienl to the pres,.


demonstrated that a national program intended primarily to
control output contributes in an important degree toward soil
conservation. That one purpose is a function of the other is
the basic fact giving rise to some of the misunderstanding
concerning the new program
This relation between the two purposes, however, should
mislead no one to conclude that measures appropriate for one
are equally useful for the other, because they are not. Unless
the States, with Federal assistance, are able to develop pro-
grams aimed primarily at production control, those who look
upon the new Federal program as adequate for this purpose
are very likely to be disappointed. Surplus crops are also soil-
depleting crops, but there is no assurance that production
adjustments sufficient for soil conservation will always be
adequate for maintaining reasonable prices.

What Enriches Our Soil
All land is good for something. We need to find out what use we
can make of our land so that we will get the most good from its use
and still have good land. Our government (the Department of Agri-
culture) has found that all land can be divided into eight classes.
Some of it is flat, slightly rolling and other is steep and broken by
After a farmer knows what classes of land he has, then he can
figure out what use he wants to make of it
Classes I and II are suitable for cops, III and IV can be used for
crops if special care is .taken to keep the rain from washing it away.
Now on these four classes, where we must do our cropping, the
following are called good practices:
ROTATION OF CROPS-A dozen or more different crops can be
planted on this good level land. and slightly rolling, and each farmer
can pick out three or four crops to use in his rotation This helps to
keep the soil rich, provided the faimei puts back into the soil what
his crops are taking out of it.
ADDING MINERALS-The farmer must put back in this good
land the minerals which the crops have taken out.
COVER CROPS-Clover. beans, peas and other legume plants put
richness back into the soil And some of these crops grow in the winter
time when the soil needs to be protected from the rain.
TERRACES-Have to be put on some of this land to make the
waste water walk off the land instead of lun
CONTOUR FARMING-Planting on the level so that water will
nalk along the hill instead of running down the hill.


WATER OUTLETS-At some places on every farm water accumu-
lates which must be removed with care if the water is to do no damage.

DRAINAGE-On some level land, water must be removed before
some crops will do well.
ADDING HUMUS-To the soil, crop residue, like corn stalks, leaves,
grass, cover crops and straw. These help to keep the soil rich.
Next consider classes V, VI, and VII. These are steep and hilly areas
that may be used only for pasture, woodland and wildlife. Of course,
some farmers find that pastures will make more money on classes
III and IV land than any other crops. But the point is that classes V
and VI and up can be used only for pasture, trees, etc

FARM PONDS-Help to keep the water on the farm, provide water
foi livestock, furnish watei for fish and recreation.

WILDLIFE BORDERS-Nature provides cover for wildlife and
where such cover is permitted to stay, it shelters wildlife which is
necessary to farming.

WOODLAND Planting trees, selective cuttmg, prevention of fires,
these are all good farming policies.

Course in Conservation
of Florida Soils






State Department of Agriculture

Printed and Distrbuted by the
Department of Public Instruction
Tallahassee, Florida
COLIN ENGLISH, State Superintendent



This is one of the several bulletins prepared and issued by
the Department of Public Instruction in compliance with Sec-
tion 5-6 of Senate Bill No. 562 enacted by the Legislature of
1935 and relating to Courses of Instruction covering the Con-
servation of the National Resources of Florida.
It has been planned to use the material contained in the
pamphlets in connection with the Courses in General Science,
Advanced Civics and other courses, without provision for a
separate course carrying credit, in the Conservation of Natural
The soil antedates even the most ancient forests. It is the
heritage of all hfe, the source of food, the beginning of wealth
and the basis of civilization. It is a cradle for the seed, sus-
tenance for the growing plant, and a grave for the dead When
the soil loses its fertility, empires decline and nations crumble.
Truly the soil is man's most precious natural resource and
should be approached with reverence.
Strange as it may appear, the salt of the ocean and food for
fish come directly or indirectly from soil. Although the ocean
and other bodies of water furnish a portion of man's food, this
is comparatively small, even for people living near the shores.
The greater part of man's food is grown on the soil.
Since the land is the source of food and the basis of all
wealth, it behooves any nation whether young or old to give
serious consideration to soil conservation. This is not a new
problem. It has been practiced in a limited way by some
farmers in America for more than a century, and in China
and Europe for many centuries
The materials contained in this bulletin were prepared
for the State Department of Agriculture by Dr O C. Bryan,
Professor of Soils. at the University of Florida, in the belief
that one function of the public schools is to acquaint future
citizens with the important problems affecting the welfare of
society It is hoped that these pages will aid teachers and
students in making a worth while study of the conservation
of the resources of Florida's soils.


An effort has been made to print and distribute a sufficient
number of copies to furnish each high school library with at
least ten copies for the use of teachers and that of pupils
enrolled in the subjects above mentioned.
The office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction
is deeply indebted to the administrative officers of the several
departments of the State Government concerned with the
Conservation of Natural Resources for their active and valuable
cooperation in the preparation of these pamphlets.



Crops are classified mto four classes. They are soil-depleting crops,
soil-conserving crops, soil-building crops, and neutral crops.
Soil-Depleting Crops:
1. Corn (Including broom corn and sweet corn);
2. Cotton;
3. Tobacco;
4. Irish potatoes;
5. Sweet potatoes:
6. RiEe;
7. Sugarcane;
8. Commercial truck and canning crops: including melons and
9. Peanuts, if harvested as nuts;
10. Gram sorghums, sweet sorghums and millets;
11 Small grains, harvested for grain or hay, (wheat, oats, barley,
rye, and gram mixtures);
12. Soybeans, if harvested for crushing.

Soil-Conserving Crops:
1. Annual winter legumes, including vetch, winter peas, bur and
crimson clover, biennial legumes, including alfalfa, kudzu, and
sericea, with or without such nurse crops as rye, oats, wheat,
barley, or grain mixtures, when such nurse crops are pastured
or clipped green; summer legumes, mcluding soybeans, except
when produced for seed for crushmg, velvet beans, crotalaria,
cowpeas, and annual varieties of Lespedeza.
2. Peanuts, when pastured.
3. Perennial grasses, including Dalls, redtop, orchard, Bermuda,
carpet, or grass mixture, and Sudan grass, with or without such
nurse crops as iye, oats, wheat, barley, or grain mixtures, when
such nurse crops are pastured or clipped green
4. Winter cover crops, including rye, barley, oats, and small grain
mixtures, winter pastured or not, and turned as green manure:
or if harvested and followed by summer legumes.
Soil-Building Crops:
1. Annual winter legumes, including vetch, winter peas, bur and
crimson clover, turned under as a green manure crop
2. Biennial legumes, including sweet and alike clover, perennial
legumes, including alfalfa, kudzu. sericea, and annual varieties
of Lespedeza.
3. Summer legumes, including soybeans, velvet beans, crotalaria,
and cowpeas, if forage is left on the land.
4 Winter cover crops, including rye, barley, oats, and small grain
mixtures, turned as green manure and followed in the summer
by an approved soil-consering crop.
5. Forest trees, when planted on clop land in 1936.


Neutral Classification (not to be counted in establishing bases):
1. Vineyards, tree fluits, small fruits, or nut crops not inter-
planted). UIf interplanted, such acreage shall carry the classi-
cation and actual acreage of the intercrop grown I Idle crop
land, cultivated fallow land, waste and woodland, etc.
Note: It is generally understood that the Florida Committee may
make some slight alterations of the above classifications, as set
up for the Southern Region.

Approved Practices: in soil-conserving and soil-building should include:
(a) Properly terracing land needing terracing.
(b). Growing and leaving on the land either winter or summer
legumes grown as catch cops.
(c). Seeding of crop land to perennial grasses including Bermuda,
Dallis. redtop, orchard, carpet or pasture mixtures.


Soil Depleting

Soil Building

Soil Conserving

Cotton Yes
(Irish and sweet
All Truck Crops
Since. watermelons i
Sugar Cane
Small Fruits and Berries "
Sugar Beets
Cultivated Nut Crops

(me. tung oil)
Wheat If I
Rye If
Grain Sorghum

Bloom Corn
Sweet Sorghums
Soybeans if h

All Field Beans If ,
and Peas bi

Annual Forage If
Grass Crops
Annual Legumes
Biennial Legumes
'Sweet, Red. Alsikec
Perennial Legumes

Perennial Grasses

- When not harvested


When plowed
ay and When plowed

lay and When plowed

for hay

When plo(

Plowed under or

under When grazed off
under When left on land
on pastured or
when only seed
under When left on land
or pastured or
when on'v seed

ed under Yes

- Yes
- Exceptions by



Soils are different in many ways. the most outstanding of
which are variations in color such as gray, brown, red. and
black: variation in size of particles such as gravel, sand, silt,
and clay:' variation in topography such as level, hills, or moun-
tains: variations in parent material such as limerock. sandstone,
clay. granite, marble, and others: also variations in moisture,
whether wet or dry. One or more of these variations may be
observed in any community and is reflected by the differences
in native vegetation and crop production. In fact, these varia-
tions account for the wide variety of plant life which we see
about us.
The average person may recognize that soils differ in their
ability to grow plants, but he seldom understands how or why.
Close examination shows that soils are made up of many small
particles which vary in size and color. Sand particles vary
from about the size of a pin head to fine powder, while clay
particles cannot be seen with a microscope. Particles as large
as sorghum seed and larger are called gravel, while those inter-
mediate between sand and clay is silt, which his a floury 'eel.
When soil is rubbed between the fingers quite different
characteristics are noted in different soils. Sands have a gritty
feel between the fingers, while clay particles are very fine and
smooth, with a sticky and plastic feel when wet. Although
all soils contain some sand, silt, and clay, the different soil
grades or classes commonly referred to as sands. loams, and
clays, merely contain different proportions of these ingred-
ients. Each of these class names has subdivisions such as
course sand and fine sand, sandy loam, silt loam and clay loam.
Soils with eighty per cent or more of the sand ingredient be-
longs to the sand class. If a soil contains over fifty per cent of
the clay ingredient it is a clay soil while the loams contain
from twenty to fifly per cent clay and silt ingredients Fur-
ther examination of a soil shows that the surface is usually
darker than the subsoil which often exhibits distinct layers or
strata. These may be seen along roadside banks or ditches.
(These layers are illustrated for two Florida soils in Plate I.)
The nature of these different layers is very important to agri-
culture. Soils which have a brown hardpan stratum under-
neath the surface are quite different from those having a clay

oGr- l-1 t 2 nl r in to I fnm in dlamrtcr CI -brlf.A 00, A nm nm d1rcter


(Upper)-A road cut showing the different soil layer, in Orange-
burg fine sandy loam.
lLoweri-A ditch bank showing the soil layers in Leon fine sand.
(Note the layers in both soils.)




or sand underneath. These layers serve as a basis of classifica-
tion and naming of soils.
Among the other important soil variations are differences
in available plant food elements or fertilizer nutrients such as
nitrates, phosphates, potash and others. These variations are
inherent properties of the soil and further explains why some
areas are productive and others are not. Many plants grow
normally without the aid of man, but most of our economic
plants requie special cultivation and care for satisfactory
production. Such crops as corn, cotton, sugar cane, beans,
cabbage, celery and tomatoes require a certain amount of inter-
tillage, sometimes referred to as cultivation, while oats, barley,
rye, clover and such crops, planting is the essential operation.
Tree crops do not require as much tillage as annuals
Crops which require inter-tillage or cultivation are usually
hard on the soil. When the land is plowed and changed from
its natural condition it is more subject to erosion and leaching
losses. Cultivation increases the rate of availability of the
plant food elements, thereby increasing the productive power
of the soil. But it also opens the way for erosion losses as may
be seen on the slopes of many farms in the South. (See Plates
II, III, and IV.)

During the early history of America, most crops were grown
without a great deal of regard for soil conservation. Land
was cleared and cropped until the surface soil had become
depleted and often eroded; then newland was acquired and
the process repeated. This type of farming has resulted in
the loss of so much of the soil, largely through erosion pro-
cesses, until at the present time over fifty per cent of the
cultivated land in the United States has been affected by
erosion losses. It has been conservatively estimated that over
fifty million acres in the United States have become so severely
eroded that farming is no longer profitable. (See Plates II
and IV.) Unless some measure is taken to conserve the surface
soil, other areas will be destroyed and the prosperity of our
nation seriously affected. China faced this problem several
centuries ago, but failed to control erosion losses, with the
result that much of her country is now desolate.



.* -.

(Upperi-Small gullies in a field showing the result of poor soil
(Lower)-River showing soil washed in from hills and fields similar
to upper condition.
'Courty of Soif Conern action Service. U S. D. A.)



, ;i.,

(Upper)-View of sheet and gully erosion. Market peanuts in back-
ground. (Note the absence of ground cover.)
LLower)-View of small gully erosion after peanuts were stacked.
The barren soil is subject to erosion common in West Florida
Courtesy of Soil Conservation Service, U S D A


(Upper)-A gully ready to undermine farm buildings.
(Lower) -Method of controlling gully erosion. The log dam prevents
further deepening of channel, INote soil collected in gully channel.)
(Coultesy of Sol Consorvation Service. U S. D. A.)


In recognition of the magnitude of soil losses facing the
American people, the National Government, through its soil
conservation service, has undertaken to bring about sane and
practical conservation measures throughout each state.' This
service is intended to reach every rural community and educate
all classes of people regarding the basic nature of the soil and
the importance of conserving the surface layer through better
farm practices. It the surface soil can be maintained, our
nation will be more permanent and our farm people more
When crops are sold from the farm, part of the plant food
in the soil is removed and eventually the soil becomes so
depleted that profitable crops can no longer be produced.
Where crops are thus sold from the farm they are designated
as soil depleting crops. The following crops are "soil deplet
ing": corn, (including broom corn and sweet corn), tobacco,
cotton, potatoes, rice, sugar cane, commercial crops and can-
ning crops, (including melons, cucumbers, and strawberries),
peanuts, if harvested, grain sorghum and-millet, small grains
such as wheat, oats, barley. and rye when harvested for grain
or hay and soy-beans when harvested, or any crop sold from
the land.
If the crops should be grazed, the soil is not depleted of so
much of its plant food. Such crops are known as soil con-
serving crops and are so indicated 'as follows: Annual winter
legumes, (including vetch, winter peas and clover); perennial
legumes, (including alfalfa, kudzu, and sercea); summer le-
gumes, (including soybeans, velvet beans, crotalara, cowpeas,
and annual varieties of lespedeza); peanuts when pastured,
perennial grasses such as centipede, Dallis, Bermuda, and car-
pet grass; winter cover crops, such as rye, barley, oats, and
small grain mixtures. Furthermore tree crops planted since
1934 are designated 'as soil conserving crops
Experience has taught that some plants may even improve
the soil by preventing leaching or erosion losses or by securing
'GraccIle. Florida is the headquarters for the soil ionseLnatlon projects in
Friday U.S D A)


through the roots atmospheric nitrogen. Such crops as cow
peas, velvet beans, crotalaria, beggar weed and clover, are
generally known as leguminous plants. They are often grown
as cover crops and when they, or any other crops are grown
especially for the purpose of improving or conserving the soil,
without being grazed or sold. they are designated as soil
building crops

Although losses through leaching processes and the sale
of crops reduce the natural productivity of the soil, by far the
greatest soil loss is erosion. The annual erosion losses of plant
food in the United States has been conservatively estimated
at four hundred million dollars ($400,000,000) annually.' It is
further estimated that the aggregate loss in terms of plant food
soluble and potentially soluble is sixty times that of the nu-
trients added in fertilizers. (See Plates II, III, and IV.)
While erosion may be caused by either wind or water, that
of water is more general and more severe than that by wind.
In both cases the losses usually begin when the native vegeta-
tion, either grass or trees, is removed. (See Plates III and IV.)
Wind erosion is most severe in arid regions where the native
sod has been broken as in the Dakotas and other western
states. From a national standpoint the grass sod is more im-
portant for agriculture than cultivated crops in such regions.
Breaking the sod reduces the binding properties of the soil and
permits severe wind erosion and even water erosion during
certain periods of heavy rainfall.
In humid regions practically all the cultivated slopes are
subject to erosion. This may be observed in the hill region
of Northwest Florida. The soil losses from erosion are usually
in proportion to the degree of the slope of the land. In many
instances, improper management of soils with five and ten
per cent slope has resulted in the loss of the first five or six
inches of soil during one generation.

Soil erosion is grouped under two general headings 1.
Sheet erosion, which consists of the movement of water carry-
ing soil over the surface in a manner not unlike a sheet. (See
SCircular 33, Soil Conservation Service-U S.D A
Unted States Department of Agriculture Yearbook 1934


Showing the percentage of one room schools, and inexperienced
teachers on poor soil compared to rich soil.
(Courtesy, Tennessee Valley Authority.)

Plate III.) While this type of erosion usually is the most
severe, it is not as conspicuous and often passes unnoticed.
2. Gully erosion, which is very destructive when once started.
(See Plate IV.) Gullies may start in a rather small and in-
conspicuous way as 'a result of plow furrows, trails, and road
ways, and within a few seasons become so severe that the land
cannot be used for crops. Often times farm buildings are in
danger and sometimes are undermined by the progressive
action of gullies as shown in Plate IV. Cotton and corn
farmers should exercise precaution in the running of rows.
in contours and in the use of terraces on slopes. A manage-
ment program that will reduce the surface soil losses to
a minimum is the most profitable practice. If this is not


done, the cultivated slopes will lose their natural fertility.
While this takes place gradually, nevertheless it is certain and
the owner will probably find his farm under mortgage because
of its inability to produce crops properly. Such areas have
poor schools and inexperienced teachers. (See Plate V.)


Another form of soil loss, though not conspicuous, but
never-the-less serious, is known as leaching which takes the
soluble part of the soil nutrients downward with moving water.
This is a downward washing of the available soil nutrients.
The loss is most common in sandy lands of humid regions. The
greater part of Florida would come under this type of soil
losses. The losses are so great that a high tonnage of fertilizers
are used annually in Florida soils.

For many years certain American farmers have devised
some erosion control measures in their own individual ways.
Some of these measures have been partially successful. The
construction of elevated ridges or terraces in the field to con-
trol erosion has been practiced for many decades. On the
whole the farm people have not been financially able to con-
struct proper terraces on stiff and heavy soils because of in-
sufficient power on the farm. Such soils are usually most
subject to erosion. This may be seen in the rolling Piedmont
areas of the cotton belt where erosion has destroyed millions
of acres of farm land. (See Plate VII. Upper right.) The sloping
lands in West Florida are also subject to serious erosion losses
SErosion control measures consist very largely in keeping
the vegetative cover on the land as much as possible. This
means that those crops which are most aggressive are the
most useful in soil conservation Grasses are soil binding
plants and are among the most effective soil conserving crops.
Areas with a slope of more than fifteen per cent should be
retired from cultivated crops and planted to either trees or
sod producing crops (pastures). The best gully control measure
is a preventive through the use of sod, brush, contour farming
and terraces to either hold or divert the water from the gully
channel Any kind of aggressive plants, especially those that
will bind the soil such as grasses and vines as well as locust


(&IaA tc br ySckoo/, 1933)



Showing the percentage of one room schools, and inexperienced
teachers on poor soil compared to rich soil.
(Courtesy, Tennessee Valley Authority )

and pine trees, will control gully formation. In most oases
the sod forming crops are more effective than tree crops within
short periods. (See Plate VIII.)
Any practice that will break the sod and permit the impact
of rain to agitate the soil, will increase the erosiveness of the
soil and in the long run should be done with care In other
words, plowing and harrowing prevents the weeds and grass
from covering the land and allows the rain to agitate the soil,
permitting water or wind to carry off the finer particles or
cream of the soil. This is emphasized on land where cultivated
crops are frequently grown compared to grass land. The com-
parative losses under different management may be seen in
Plate VIII (Lower right). This graph represents soil losses over
a six year period in Missouri.


j 4


(Upper)-Terracing machine in operation. (Note depth of furrow
made by machine.)
(Lower)-Terraces completed in field. Properly constructed terraces
remove excess water without erosion loss.
Courtesy of Soil Conservation Service, S D. Al


For those crops which require inter-tillage, it is necessary
to construct terraces. (See Plate VI.) This is done with tractors
and terracing machines in all soil conservation regions In
some cases teams are used to construct terraces. Then to
further control erosion the inter-tilled crops are arranged in
a strip crop fashion with those that do not require tillage.
These strips or non-tilled crops serve to hold any soil material
that may wash from the plowed areas. (See Plate VII) As a
further measure, crops are rotated in such a way that inten-
sively tilled crops will not be on the same area every season.
In many instances it is necessary to use commercial fertilizers
to stimulate a cover on eroded soils. This is usually a profitable
measure in the long run.
It is very desirable to keep all soils covered with plants as
much as it is practical, where land is too steep for cultivated
crops, trees should be planted. Any kind of plant or cover on
the land will materially retard erosion losses as well as leach-
ing losses. (See Plate VIII.) In the first case it is a problem
of preventing the solid portion of the soil from being washed
away. In the second case it is a problem of preventing the
soluble portions of the soil. commonly referred to as fertilizer
nutrients, from being leached. Therefore, plants will either
bind the soil particles together or absorb the available soil
nutrients and convert them into a less leachable form. Thus
the sandy land will be benefitted and conserved by the use
of crops whether weeds, grass or otherwise. It is even neces-
sary and profitable at times to bring in litter from outside to
serve as a soil cover as well as to increase the moisture holding
capacity of the soil for the main cash crop. This is particularly
true in a warm humid climate such as Florida, where the
conditions are favorable for the soil organisms to render plant
food available during the entire year. In such areas weeds
or grass are often a blessing in disguise to the soil. Under
Florida conditions the natural forces have tended to equalize
soil losses and we have a number of very profitable volunteer
crops such as beggar weed, native grasses, and other crops
that grow after the cultivation of the cash crops have been
discontinued. This is nature's way of replenishing her land
and should be encouraged wherever possible. The value of
this farm practice has been observed by many farmers
One of the most serious problems involved in the manage-
ment of organic soils, such as peat and muck, is the fact


IUpperi-Terrace arrangement on a fairly step slope.
iLower--Strip farming on a steep slope.
tCo i- .. S, C 1 r.,* 1 Se'-.t U S D At




iUpperl-Erosion on poorly managed far min the cotton belt.

ILoneri-Terraces and strip farming u'ing cotton and peanuts in
i'i Sull ( imiLiv on S.'LLr,[ U. S A,I


that they shrink and burn readily when dried. Since organic
soils consist very largely of plant materials, bacteria and
fungi decompose them readily when once exposed to atmos-
pheric conditions. Moreover, when dry, they will burn rather
freely. So the problem confronting the Florida Everglades is
that of moisture control By moisture control is meant suf-
ficient moisture through drainage and canal systems to pre-
vent fires and excessive decomposition process and at the
same time to drain the excessive water so that crops may be
grown. It is just as important to consider this as a soil con-
servation measure as erosion control.
Where land for any reason (sand, gullies. or what not) is
not suited for cultivated crops, it should be planted to tree
crops or grazing crops, both of which are soil conserving. Such
a practice as burning of the forests damages the trees so
severely that they can rarely become established. Many Florida
wooded areas have been cut almost bare of pines with the
result that much of the land in the state exists as is indicated
in Plate IX.


While Florida soils are not subject to severe erosion losses
except in the hilly sections of the central and western counties
they are subject to severe leaching losses because of their
sandy nature. Clay subsoil prevents leaching. This problem
is as serious as the erosion problem, and can be considerably
improved by using crops that keep the land covered as much
as possible. Nature's way is often better than man's way.
Soil conservation is a constant problem with the state and
nation as well as with the individual farmer. Plans are to be
made and executed each season and year regarding control
measures, such as building or repairing terraces, contour
plowing, planting tree crops, cover crops, repairing gullied
areas, seeding pasture areas and all other practices that will
conserve the land. Unless we save the soil. not only the
farm people but the nation as a whole will be confronted
with greater difficulties than they are now facing.


(Upper)-Lespedeza sericea less than two years old. This crop
makes good ground cover and hay.
(Lower)-Velvet beans and sorghum. Makes a good cover and hay
CCourtes oa Soil Coertion Serce, U Se. D. A )


Piowd4" Plwed e Conhnlous Continuous Rotation Contlimius
Followed FceLod Bluss Whec Corn

(Upper)-Centipede grass set only two months using small squares
of sod. This grass makes good ground protection.
Courtesy of Soil Conservation Service. U S D A)
(Lower)-Graph showing the effect of different treatments on
erosion. INote the small annual loss of soil under continuous
'Courtesy, Mo Agr Exp Station, Res Bul 177.)


I. O

lUpper)-Longleaf pine reseeding.
ILower)-Florida cutover land with no seed trees left. Land
allowed to burn annually.


1. Visit five farms in your community and ascertain the
kind of erosion if any-sheet erosion, gully erosion-how
much soil lost? Compare field with nearby forest area.
2. Collect some garden soil and place two teaspoonfuls in a
tall bottle or cylinder with fifty times this amount of
water and shake thoroughly and allow to stand one minute.
Then pour off the liquid leaving the sand in the bottom.
Repeat this operation by adding more water five times
and note the difference in color of washed soil from that
of original. (The best part of the soil has been washed out).
3 Take three to five designated fields in your community
and get their history for the past five years regarding
crops grown. Then classify the crops as soil building, soil
conserving, or soil depleting. Note the influence they
have had on the fertility of the soil.
4. Examine the soil by digging with a shovel or post hole
digger in three productive fields and three unproductive
fields, noting color, depth of surface, amount of clay in
the subsoil and hardpan, if any, in the soils.
5. If any rocks can be located in your community, examine
them from the standpoint of color, origin, composition,
degree of hardness, and degree of weathering.
6. Make a survey of your community and find out the number
of farms that are being rented and compare to those being
farmed by their owners. Which are more productive and
7. Examine with a spade a pasture sod, and forest area. Land
compare the condition of soils with that of a cultivated
field. Explain which would be most likely to erode.
8. Contact several farmers to ascertain the value of allowing
the land to rest or remain idle as a means of improving
its fertility.
9. Mix some green legumes or other plants with a moist soil
and examine at weekly intervals noting the changes taking
place and rate of decomposition.
10 If available, study the influence of slope and kind of soil,
whether clay, sand or loam, on the severity of erosion.
11. Is erosion aggravated in Florida by heavy freezes as in
northern states?


SCIENrCE ADvX13OR BOARD, Second Report
ig. 6
Degree of soil erosion. The maximum elosion by water, in the form of sheet erosion and
Lying, has taken place in areas 1 and 2, here respectively serious and harmful erosion is
despread over cultivated and oie;gized aieas. In area 3, the relatively flat lands, and in 4,
e hilly and mnuntainous country of the Nortlhast and the Pacifle Northn;est, erosion is gen-
ally not serious, though it is bad locally in area 3. Area 5, in the Great Plains and the
lumbia Plateau, is h;iracteized by lwnd erosion, nuch of it senlous whlie e the soil is eulti
ted. In area (i, mainly the intcrmountain West, there is in general much serious erosion
ing to overgrazing lnefly.


CouNta Ns w+ICM At LgAsT NALS oP ThE t**D lid PAfMS

1< -

Fir. 7


.F.. I

Fig. 8


Soil Conservation Paramount

To stimulate a non-political, soil-building program resolves
itself into two phases-first, intelligent self-help and, second,
financial aid ftom appropriate Governmental authorities where
bodly eroded farm lands and impoverished grazing areas
should be withdrawn from agricultural use. temporarily or
permanently. The imperative necessity for this is illustrated
in Fig. 6.
In the long run, protecting the American Market for the
American farmer should so increase his net income that
normally he will have an adequate reserve to buy fertilizer
and plant soil-building crops without depending on the Federal
Government for help. In this connection attention is called to
the fact that rice growers in Japan expend from twenty-five
to forty percent of their annual income for the purchase of
fertilizers. This is in a country where the soil has been under
cultivation for tens of centuries Proper soil conservation
initiated by previous dynasties would have avoided the neces-
sity for such a heavy expense for fertilizers. Let America
take notice lest history repeat itself in this country
To make possible a more secure stake in the land for the
tiller of the soil is of paramount importance. Profitable prices
for farm products plus low interest rates on mortgages will
assist the farmer in devoting a larger amount of his current
income to the reduction of mortgage. The increase in farm
tenancy between 1910 and 1930. as illustrated in Figs. 7 and 8,
is an unhealthy situation. Widely distributed ownership of
llnd, bought and paid for, is far better than a standing army
in maintaining the Republic.


The successful application of these remedies is dependent
on ninety per cent self-help and only ten per cent Govern-
ment aid

Second Dfliorn Conference