This project was passed down to me, but soon became all my own. My contribution to the project managed to finally bring the research to a close. I presented at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Conference at the University of Northern Iowa in the Spring of 2011. I also presented the research at the Association of American Geographers Annual Conference at Seattle. To view the AAG submission: http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=38958. Currently I'm adding my research findings and finishing up the publication of the project.
The year 2007 showed a drastic increase in corn production in Iowa due to the high demand for ethanol. Using agricultural statistics and land cover datasets for 2000-2008, analysis was conducted to assess potential long-term consequences of the ‘ethanol boom’ for sustainability of Iowa agricultural systems. Specifically, we investigated whether increased corn production was achieved by alerting normal crop rotation patterns and displacing soybean or other crops out of quality soil into deficient soil. Soils with the Corn Suitability Rating (CSR) less than 65 are considered not well suitable for farming. In 2007, the amount of corn in soil with a high CSR increased greatly to a record amount, but the corn acres planted in low CSR soil remained consistent with past years. The percent of corn on high CSR soil compared to low CSR soil has steadily increased from 66% in 2000 to 71% in 2007. This suggests that the increase in corn production is not being pushed to low CSR soils but is instead displacing other crops from high CSR soil to low CSR soil. In addition, altering crop rotation cycles was found to be widespread with a significant increase in the number of acres with corn three years in a row. Most importantly, 73% of these farms were on high CSR soil. Our results indicate that the recent increase in corn acreage may have long lasting effects such as the depletion of high quality Iowa soil that will ultimately hinder Iowa’s crop production for future years.
This project is funded by the NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium.