On Nature: “Ding” was right

On Nature: David Voigts

Jay N. “Ding” Darling, the noted conservationist and Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist for the Des Moines Register, was correct. He understood that if we abuse the land and its harbored wildlife, we will have less to pass on to our children and grandchildren. Wildlife habitat that is destroyed and soil that erodes away is lost forever.

While these truths are still relevant, climate change from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide has made farming practices even more important today. If farmers are focused solely on crop yields, they can expect a future with lower crop productivity caused by more soil washing down the Mississippi and the effects of higher temperatures, increased rainfall, more severe storms, and longer and more severe droughts.

However, farmers can reverse these trends if their goals include protecting their soil by employing practices such as diverse cover crops, no-till planting, crop rotation, and rotational grazing. Healthy soils should not only slow erosion and be more resilient to the effects of a warming climate but also have the potential of capturing 40 percent of the total annual carbon emissions that we all emit.

Farmers have important choices to make, and the government needs to help them make choices that help us all.