The Hidden Costs of Land Degradation in US Maize Agriculture

TitleThe Hidden Costs of Land Degradation in US Maize Agriculture
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsJang W.S., Neff J., Im Y., Doro L., Herrick JE
JournalEarth's Future
Start Page1
Date Published02/2021
ARIS Log Number369973

The United States is a world leader in the production of maize and other crops and the agricultural success of the country is directly linked to the intensive use of fertilizers and irrigation. However, even in advanced agricultural systems, soils can become degraded over time due to factors such as soil organic matter (SOM) loss and erosion. Here, we use a series of scenario-based model analyses to show that about one-third of current annual US. N fertilizer use in maize agriculture is used to compensate for the long-term loss of soil fertility through erosion and organic matter loss. This leads to over a half billion dollars per year in extra fertilizer supply costs to US farmers. These results highlight the potential to reduce both the input costs and environmental impacts of agriculture through the restoration of SOM in agricultural soils.