Biofuel Demand Takes Big Toll on US Prairies
Grasslands destroyed at fastest rate since 1930s, says study
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Feb 20, 2013 2:10 PM CST
A handful of corn is shown before it is processed at the Tall Corn Ethanol plant, May 24, 2006, in a Coon Rapids, Iowa file photo.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

(Newser) – The push for biofuels—spurred by ethanol mandates and government subsidies—is taking a serious toll on the American landscape, a study finds. Grasslands are being plowed up faster than at any time since the 1930s, say researchers from South Dakota State University, with 1.3 million acres turned into corn and soybean territory between 2006 and 2011. Iowa and South Dakota, for instance, are seeing 5% of their pastures converted to cropland annually, the Washington Post reports.

The speed of the process is "comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia," say the study's authors. That's causing multiple problems: For one thing, it's a climate-change threat, because grasslands are thought to retain carbon better than croplands. It's also a threat to farmers themselves, who are being pushed toward land with a high drought risk. And it poses a danger to bird populations that breed in the area.

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Showing 3 of 45 comments
AnimeOtaku
Feb 21, 2013 10:59 AM CST
Most people these days live in the city and for a huge majority of them having a vehicle with a internal combustion engine is needles so city people should go to EVs. If Americans REALLY want to do something about this problem they should make the commitment and sacrifice by saving all their expendable income and purchase the new Tesla Sedan, base price is est.$53,000 and relegate the internal combustion engine as a mode of personal/individual transportation to the bone yard of history,which is the end goal of Tesla Motors.If you care to go see YouTube-Megafactories Tesla Model S_English.
reallllllly
Feb 21, 2013 10:04 AM CST
Technically prairie land is only ground that has never been plowed, DUMBASS! I only count virgin prairie ground as a real prairie otherwise its just a recreation. My friend owns some of the last virgin prairie ground in the state of Iowa. If you call the stuff that has been plowed virgin its like a girl saying she's had sex but a born again Christian and thus wants to be a virgin again. Can you link the site with the report? I will ask my agronomist friends in Brazil for links on the stats of clearing ground in Brazil and Africa. I will try to find one that can use a translation plugin as well. I think what you are referencing is either pasture, or CRP ground. Its good ground and we farm it responsibly and file our paperwork with the federal government. Next time do a little more research. Also we are no where near Brazil for land clearing (surprise I own land there too). In Brazil its called Cerrado which means closed or impassable. We cleared 20,000+ acres there but have 20% reserve.
Dogbreath
Feb 21, 2013 9:07 AM CST
A very erodable hillside along I80 in Iowa at Milemarker 178 has just been converted from grass to plowed up cropland.........look for accelerated soil erosion, fertilizer runoff, Mississippi River pollution. There's already too much row crop agriculture in highly erodable terrain here in the Midwest. You should see the mini-gullies created in the spring after a heavy rain.........farmers scramble to "refill" and smooth out the gullies before the public notices the horrible waste of topsoil. Western Iowa at about Milemarker 70 on the south side of I80 is (and has been for years) a disgrace........all visible from the Interstate.....makes you wonder how bad it is back away from sight along the roadways. Our current US Sec of Ag is an ex-Governor of Iowa. He nothing but a baloney politician. He's busy spending money on political correctness training and failing to address what would seem to be a very top priority ..........to manage our natural resources for the future.