Shallow land, wrong crops

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

American rivers, an environmental protection group based in Washington, DC, USA, has warned that farmers along the Minnesota river are severely damaging the river by their crop selection. Cultivation of crops such as corn and soya bean in an area prone to flooding is not only leading to crop losses but also "overloading" the river with harmful sediment, nutrients and bacteria. The organisation has launched an effort to promote economically viable alternatives to standard agricultural practices in order to protect the Minnesota, which is the most threatened river in the US according to the organisation. The environmental group is exploring options such as growing flood-tolerant crops, grasses like alfalfa and the once-common wild rice, as well as raising hybrid poplar trees that are useful for the paper and pulp industry. In this, the organisation is being assisted by Barr Engineering, a Minneapolis-based firm. Some of the alternatives have already started reaping positive results. One farmer was reportedly successful in converting a low-lying wetland into a pasture, while another restored a wetland that he now leases to hunters ( Environment , Vol 39, No 6).

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