Why Indiana Scientists Care about Soil (and Why You Should Too)

The main reason resources are spent on studying soils and soil erosion in Indiana has to do with the predominance of agricultural production.  Losing soil has all kinds of implications to farmers, but it doesn’t stop there.  Losing soil from water erosion, for example, can add to toxicity in water levels as the water and soils wash into fresh water sources.  Your home can also suffer the ill effects of soil erosion.  Soil, after all, is what equates to keeping your home on solid (or not so solid) ground!

Federal Soil Erosion Data

Erosion is often tracked even by federal organizations to monitor such trends in cropland.  (Stay tuned, though, this all matters to homeowners too!)

Indiana Soil Erosion

Water (Sheet & Rill) and Wind Erosion on Cropland
with margins of error
1982 1987 1992 1997 2002 2007 2012 2017
Annual Tons of Water Erosion in Millions 60.30
± 2.62
54.87
± 2.62
41.46
± 1.65
36.03
± 1.62
39.54
± 2.27
36.47
± 2.13
36.60
± 2.04
36.53
± 2.07
Rate of Water Erosion in Tons Per Acre Per Year 4.37
± 0.17
3.95
± 0.17
3.06
± 0.11
2.68
± 0.11
2.96
± 0.15
2.76
± 0.15
2.76
± 0.14
2.74
± 0.14

Source for table information: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/NRCS_RCA/reports/nri_eros_in.html

Indiana Department of Agriculture: Soil Conservation Division

Indiana Department of Agriculture Division of Soil Conservation Logo

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture has an entire Division of Soil Conservation dedicated to helping control soil erosion.  This government entity produces all kinds of services, studies, tools, surveys, and annual reports.  They assist farmers directly, but also conduct campaigns to increase awareness and best practices.  Funded by less than 1% of the $17,750,000 in cigarette tax revenue in 2021 (source: annual report found at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/fbbae27216544eca8aca380d4ef7d86c), this division represents a vital resource for the preservation of Indiana soils.  Their annual report focuses on achievements in various areas including construction / engineering projects and a measurement of soil prevented from erosion in any given year.

Purdue University and Home Site Soil Information

Purdue Agronomy LogoPurdue University published a manual entitled Understanding and Judging Indiana Soils in 1996, then subsequently released revisions in September of 2009 to update important information.  Explaining the purpose of the publication, authors said: “This book will serve as a text for high school soils courses and as a manual for soil evaluation career development events (soil judging contests) which stimulate learning about soils in the field. Contests, organized through FFA and 4-H programs, have helped many young people learn about soils since the first one in Indiana was held in Wayne County in 1949. The book also will help those who live in houses not served by sewers understand how their onsite wastewater disposal system works and how to take care of it.” (source: https://www.agry.purdue.edu/soils_judging/new_manual/).

The book surveys all kinds of soil matters with a lot of specific material that applies directly to Indiana.  It also includes a section with information for home construction.  It covers what types of soil are more suitable for home construction for two main reasons.  One has to do with septic / waste water systems and the ability of specific soil types to displace wastewater.  Another focus is soil stability as it pertains to a home’s foundation.  More clay soils, for example, tend to expand and contract unevenly and can cause a foundation to settle, requiring foundation repair.

This web page with content from the book includes information on best homesite practices including slope, erosion issues, subsoil texture, drainage, bedrock, maintaining soil during construction, improving drainage, and even delves into recommendations for diverting water through drain systems, as are frequently required in basement waterproofing.

Takeaway Principles

Understanding and conservation of soil in Indiana is, for some, a lifelong pursuit including PhD programs, community initiatives, and conservation efforts — for the common person, a few takeaways should stand out to us:

  • Soil erosion is a serious issue that affects everyone in our state, with implications for
    • Agriculture
    • Water cleanliness
    • Home construction
    • Home foundation settlement
    • …and much more
  • Indiana’s department of agriculture includes a soil conservation division with resources to help farmers and to help raise awareness in the general public
  • Resources are also available for best practices to avoid soil problems in building a new home
  • Foundation settlement can be a direct result of soil erosion
  • Soil erosion can be a direct result of poor drainage

As for the last two points, Crossroads Foundation Repair can help with foundation repair and with any waterproofing concerns.  Stay informed and interested in the ground that grows your crops and holds you up (and your house)!


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