In parts of Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas the loss of topsoil leaves growers to work with difficult claypan soil, but researchers at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources are hopeful about a solution. Studies show switchgrass, a perennial plant commonly used for biofuels, can build up the soil quality on farms that have lost their fertile topsoil.
“Once a farm loses its topsoil due to erosion, the soil recovers very slowly,” Anderson said. “Switchgrass can be grown efficiently on eroded claypan soils; farmers who have lost their topsoil may want to consider growing this hardy plant. Switchgrass can be harvested and sold as a biomass crop for ethanol production or as fuel for power plants. While demand depends on the current market for biomass crops, this could be an answer for these farmers who otherwise have challenges obtaining good economic returns growing grain crops on eroded land.”