The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, December 01, 1986, Image 1
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. X December 1, 1986 New survey shows Nebraskans smoke less than average By Kip Fry Staff Reporter 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 Abuse. 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 time. "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. Farme By Shiv Cariappa Staff Reporter It has been an especially wet year, and Bill Armbrust is pleased. The rains will provide him with a "fabulous crop." 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 beyond. 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 acceptable loss. "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 southeastern Nebraska. 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 3 git a 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 of land. 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 mm University of Nebraska-Lincoln I' V Vol t v -I ' N. X?N - i - -.. y - Winter wonderland 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. M laps 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. Cost-sharing Considering the complexities of the problem and its costs to society, Scorchers will set 'Stick ablaze Arts & Entertainment, Page 6 J7 tream battle 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 better production. "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. Polluted water 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 3 $' Andrea HoyDaily Nebraskan produce, or cost so much more to produce." Young farmers 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 conservation. 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. Public awareness 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 ignored. 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 productivity." "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 lecturer.