Has anybody heard of this? Apparently a great effort was taken during the Dust Bowl to prevent soil erosion create a large windbreak. If only they had thrown a few more species in there we could have had the Great Plains food forest. Wiki article on the Great Plains Shelterbelt... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Plains_Shelterbelt
I read something about that recently in The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, it was a pretty good read, he goes into what happened to the soil and why, the human impact, and what they tried to do after the fact. He talks about the shelterbelt and soil conservation programs.
These shelterbelts are pretty impressive. We live in the Red River Valley outside of Fargo-Moorhead. It's pretty standard fare to have some sort of shelterbelt around a farmstead and even longer ones bordering fields to help reduce soil erosion.
.....Or at least that **was** the sentiment. Now most of them are being torn out in an effort to "grow for a growing population".
So when driving west into east-central North Dakota and encountering one of the FDR-program shelterbelts, it's pretty incredible how well the planning was to install species that, in a graded fashion, protected the down-wind soil from erosion. As a testament to just how important this concept is, I was walking along the river near our house yesterday. With low snowfall this past winter and an early spring, I was searching for a box-elder tree to tap for some syrup. As I reached the section of the river that is adjacent to the local field, I was shocked to see "drifts" of mud in front of me. From the black field all the way to the river's edge was a large black mud drift from the winds that blew all winter across that section of snow-less field surface. And this doesn't even address the fact that that same field no longer has a ditch line (grower plowed it up) and there are places where the field connects directly to the river (via deliberate excavation) in order to drain the field quicker. With practices such as this, it's pretty hard to convince me that conventional farming is any different from strip mining.
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