Are some farming practices making floods worse? UW Madison Geography professor Jim Knox says there were several factors contributing to this month's massive floods, including high corn prices. "With the economic situation, and the move towards ethanol production from corn, prices are higher," notes Knox.
That means farmers have been eliminating some proven soil conservation measures, like contour strip cropping and grass waterways, to get acreage into production. "We've got big, massive fields that facilitate a lot of surface runoff and soil erosion, and that has certainly occurred this spring." Still, Knox acknowledges that land use practices have been just part of the picture. "To be honest, the thing that has made this so bad is natural. It's this anomalously wet spring that we've had." Statewide, crop losses are estimated at around $147 million.