High crop prices leading to dramatic grassland loss in northern Plains

According to A new study by researchers at South Dakota State University, farmers are digging up grasslands in the northern Plains to plant crops at the quickest pace since the 1930s.  The study found that U.S. farmers converted more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, in response to high crop prices and biofuel mandates (right). In states like Iowa and South Dakota, some 5 percent of pasture is turning into cropland each year.  The authors conclude that the rates of grassland loss are “comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia.” The loss of grassland affects carbon sequestration, soil erosion rates, and migratory bird habitat.

A Washington Post article on the study can also be found here.

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