The flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in 2011 left many farmers struggling to recover. In 2012, many are still cleaning up the mess and working to restore their cropland to productive levels seen before the flooding.
The flooding caused many corn and soybean fields to become so damaged, that restoring the land will likely take multiple years.
“We’ll be working on this for years,” Mason Hansen, corn and soybean farmer in Missouri Valley, Iowa, told the Des Moines Register. “It’ll never be right. Ever. People don’t have any idea how big of a mess this is.”
Hansen told the Des Moines Register that he has spent the past nine months removing sand from his crop fields and filling in holes gouged out by the flood. He has cleared 140 acres of the sand, but he still has 160 acres more to go.
The sand is so devastating to fields because it robs the soil of the microbes that flourish in topsoil, which helps crops grow. Returning the soil to the previous levels of productivity can take time after such significant flooding.
“The sand doesn’t hold nutrients and water the way soil does, so it’s not suitable for growing crops,” Shawn Shouse, an Iowa State University engineer and agribusiness export, was quoted as saying. “If the deposits are thin, they can stir them into the soil and probably get along well. But when the deposits are several feet thick, they really have to move that sand somewhere else. That can be really expensive — and you have to figure out what to do with it.”
Compounding the problem of removing the sand is where to place it once it’s removed from the land. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prohibits farmers from dumping the sand back into the river without a federal permit. As a result, much of it gets piled along the fields and used to fill giant holes left by the water.
In light of the one-year anniversary of the 2011 flooding, National Crop Insurance Services has released a video explaining how crop insurance helped farmers who were victims of the flood. That video is available to watch here.