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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 1, 1986)
WEATHER:Monday, windy and
cold with a 70 percent chance of
snow, 1 to 2 inches accumulations
possible. High in the lower to mid
30s. Northwest wind 15 to 30 mph.
Monday night, occasional flurries
in the evening followed by decreas
ing cloudiness toward morning. Low
in the lower to mid-20s.
December 1, 1986
New survey shows
less than average
By Kip Fry
The percentage of Nebraskans who smoke is less than the
percentage of Americans who smoke, according to a five-year
study by the Nebraska Prevention Center for Alcohol and Drug
Twenty-five percent of Nebraskans smoke, compared to 30
percent nationwide, the study said. From 1980 to 1985, the per
cent of smokers among the state's adult male populat ion declined
from 30 percent to 25 percent. Female smokers declined in the
state from 26 percent to 24 percent during the same period of
"You have to ask, will the decline continue?" asked Ian New-'
man, director of the center and professor of health education at
UNL. "It may have gone as far as it will go. It depends on whether
people are quitting or just not picking (the habit) up."
Rural areas appear to be the most smoke-free, according to the
study. The number of male smokers in rural areas decreased from
26 percent to 13 percent between 1980 and 1985. The number of
female smokers declined during the same period from 15 percent
to 10 percent.
Despit e this news, the study said many of the people who quit
smoking were light smokers, or people who smoke less than 15
cigarettes a day.
By Shiv Cariappa
It has been an especially wet
year, and Bill Armbrust is pleased.
The rains will provide him with a
But rains also worry Armbrust.
Excess rains and wind cause ero
sion in the soft loess hills of eastern
Nebraska. And Armbrust wonders
sometimes how much precious top
soil will be left for his grandchild
ren if similar weather patterns con
tinue for the next 20 years and
His worries are not unfounded.
Conservation experts say this year's
heavy rains could wash away up to
60 tons of soil an acre, 12 times the
"We may have lost as much soil in
one year as should have been lost in
12 years," says Alice Jones, asso
ciate profssor of agronomy at UNL.
Over the long run, such heavy
erosion means farms such as Arm
brust's would eventually become
non-tillable and unproductive waste
land. Already, conservationists say,
crop production is down five to 10
bushels per acre in many farms in
Adding to the loss of topsoils are
off-site erosion costs, such as con
tamination of ground and surface
water from fertilizers and pesticides
that are present in eroding soil.
"If you look at it in terms of soil
and chemical movement we are
already paying indirectly through
taxes," she says. When soil erodes
"the lost soil may end in a ditch and
it needs to be cleaned out, and this
comes from tax dollars," Jones says.
Productivity is lost, Jones says,
because crops depend on the nu
trients found in the upper most
NU's trip to Irvine
ruined by 109-101 loss
Erosion of state's topsoil concerns experts
eight to 16 inches of topsoil.
"Soil is really a living entity,"
Jones says. Fertilizers introduced
into the soil, she says, cannot replace
all of the qualities. For example,
organic matter increases the soil's
ability to hold water. With adequate
conservation, she says, "erosion
would be no faster than the replen
ishing of soil through natural fac
tors." Conservation hindered
But a variety of factors hin
dered adequate conservation. In the
1970s because of prevailing eco
nomic conditions marginal land
and range land were extensively
cultivated. Conservation practices
such as terracing, damming, con
servation tillage and crop rotation"
wasn't the style," says Terry Gilles
pie, a soil conservationist for the
United States Department of Agri
culture. Much of the land broken up for
cultivation in that period also "broke
up fragile soils, that is, more erodi
ble soil," and this was left "un
treated," Gillespie says.
He blames "tax incentives for
making it advantageous for corpora
tions to get in." Conservationists
say corporations are poor stewards
But economic factors have dis
couraged conservation among many
non-corporate farmers, too. Armbrust,
who farms about 850 acres of land,
says he fights a "consistant battle"
to keep his land manageable. With
the current economic situation, Arm
brust says, conservation is "lower
down the priority list" for him.
"I should be plowing terraces
now," he says, "but the money and
the time is not there to keep the
Sports, Page 5
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
t v -I ' N. X?N
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Deb Boren, right, and her daughter, Amy, look at Christmas decorations while riding the escalator
in the Atrium, Sunday. Both said they were getting an early start on their Christmas shopping.
terraces and revamp waterways."
He acknowledges that conservation
is extremely important and critical
for "long-term livelihood."
Because of topsoil loss, Armbrust
is forced to place "more nitrogen
into the soil."
Time and money
The telling factor is time and
money, and Armbrust typifies many
farmers. His dilemma of ignoring
conservation is "understandable,"
says Maurice Baker, professor of
agriculture economics at UNL.
Baker says that "from an eco
nomic standpoint, there is really no
incentive for that individual farmer
to do anything about the soil ero
sion problem, because it costs them
money. It takes time, materials and
energy to put in terraces."
Farmers who operate on thin soil
are particularly vulnerable to eco
nomic pressure, Baker says.
The loss of an inch or two of top
soil may significantly affect either
the yields or the amount of fertiliz
ers and other chemicals they have
to put into the soil to maintain pro
ductivity, Baker says.
Erosion on farmland is costly to
the farmer, but society picks up the
off-site costs of erosion.
"It's a very complex problem we
are looking at," Baker says. When
soil washes off the land, he says,
much of it gets into streams. In this
part of the country, it gets into the
Missouri River, which dumps into
the Mississippi River. Millions of
dollars are spent each year dredging
silt out of the lower Mississippi to
accomodate barge traffic, Baker says.
Considering the complexities of
the problem and its costs to society,
Scorchers will set 'Stick
Arts & Entertainment, Page 6
Baker says, "it is desirable for us to
encourage conservation either
through cost-sharing or outright pay
ment to the farmer.
In eastern Nebraska much of the
topsoil is already lost, Jones says. So
far technology and research have
compensated production loss stem
ming from erosion.
She says plant-breeding programs,
new and improved fertilizers and
insecticides, better harvesting tech
niques and a variety of new herbi
cides all have contributed toward
"What we see today in terms of
production is largely the result of
good technology, so we see yield
increasing. But we are probably at a
plateau with technology. We are
getting small changes now. We are
beginning to notice some of the soil
affects o.n crop production," Jones
says. "But many, many farmers flat
out say that conservation is not
important. The soil is here. "Although
valuable soil is being lost every year,
Jones says, many farmers don't seem
to realize it.
Erosion is not something that is
apparent to the casual observer.
Jones likens it to polluted water.
"You don't see erosion; you don't
see polluted water. But over the
years, we came to believe water pol
lution was important. We saw the
effects of nitrates."
Nebraska nitrate contamination
is now so serious that extensive tax
supported monitoring systems have
been installed to gauge water quali ty.
If erosion is not controlled, Jones
says, Americans may face "a four
fold increase in the cost of food,
because our fields can no longer
Vol. 86 No. 67
Andrea HoyDaily Nebraskan
produce, or cost so much more to
Jones says younger farmers tend
to be more receptive to conserva
tion. Armbrust acknowledges that older
farmers in his area tend to be reluc
tant practitioners of conservation.
But he sees hopeful signs, such as
the present practice of "minimum
tillage" and what he calls "evolving
cultural practices" that will benefit
Although some conservation prac
tices such as terracing are expen
sive others are not. Conservationists
say strip-cropping, crop rotation and
contour farming or a combination of
these should pose little expense.
Residue management, the prac
tice of leaving after-harvest crop
residue on the ground surface as
opposed to tilling it under, is "no
cost at all," Jones says.
During the "Dust Bowl" period of
the 1930s, erosion captured the
public's attention. Public awareness
today may not be acute, say conser
vationists, but erosion costs are
well documented and cannot be
Warns Max Schnepf, editor of
publications for the Soil Conserva
tion Service of America: "At some
point, even if it is not in the farmer's
lifetime, the land will lose all its
"If we continue mining our soil,"
Armbrust says, "we are headed back
wards." The story was written in conjunc
tion with the I'NL College of Jour
nalism's depth reporting class taught
by Al Pagel, Gannett professional
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