Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Frank Bell

Committee Members

Curtis Lard, Horace Smith


Since 1960, crop and soil management systems that do not provide adequate protection against soil erosion on sloping land have come into widespread use by farmers in West Tennessee. This has been the result of an increasing demand for soybeans and the favorable prices that farmers have received for this crop in recent years. The acreage of soybeans harvested for beans in Tennessee has steadily increased each year for the past six years. In 1960, Tennessee farmers harvested 394,000 acres of soybeans (8). In 1966, the forecast is that 941,000 acres will be harvested (9). The acreage of other cultivated crops remained fairly constant during the period 1960 through 1965 (8).

The more than one-half million acre increase in soybeans since 1960 has occurred largely in West Tennessee counties. In 1965, more than 91 percent of the soybeans grown in the State was in counties west of Kentucky Lake (8). Approximately 60 percent of the soybean acreage was located on the Grenada - Loring - Memphis soil association, an upland area of gently rolling hills with fairly wide, nearly level tops. The short hillsides have a slope range of 3 to 20 percent. The soils have a silt loam surface and erode very readily when unprotected by erosion control measures,

Prior to the build-up in soybean acreage, cotton and corn were given first preference on land selection. These crops were grown primarily on the well-drained or moderately well-drained nearly level hilltops and bottomlands. Soybeans were produced on the level, wet bottomlands and nearly level, fragipan soils. The soybean acreage was mostly confined to the larger farms where ample level land was available for row crops use. Erosion was not a serious problem under these conditions.

Row crops are now being grown on many thousands of acres of sloping upland where serious erosion hazards exist. Most of this sloping land is being used intensively without any soil conserving practices. In fact, a considerable acreage that was formerly in perennial pasture and hay crops is now used for cropland.

Another factor contributing to increased conservation problems has been the study increase in the number of absentee landowners. This has resulted in more land being cash rented. This usual rental agreement is for one to three years with no land use restrictions. Under such an agreement, the lessee is inclined to use all suitable land for row crops with no consideration for soil conservation or other land improving techniques.

Under the intensive row crop type of agriculture that has evolved in the western part of the State, many landowners and farm operators voice doubt that they can afford to install conservation systems that will provide adequate soil protection.

The objectives of this study were as follows:

To determine the effects of selected levels of conservation on estimated net farm income.

To predict the average annual soil loss per acre from sloping cropland on a selected sample of farms in the Grenada - Loring - Memphis soil association in Dyer County, Tennessee.

To relate present soil losses from representative upland soils when used for cropland to future crop yields and farm income.

If it can be determined that conservation programs that provide for erosion control can be installed without seriously reducing farm income, farmers practicing row crop agriculture should accept conservation practices more readily.

Planners of agricultural programs should find the information obtained from this study useful in identifying problems and deciding on objectives that should receive the most emphasis in the planned programs.

The study should provide some useful guides to agricultural policymakers in formulating agricultural programs that protect the public interest without penalizing farmers with programs that reduce farm income.

Planners of resource development programs such as the small watershed program of the U. S. Department of Agriculture could make use of some of the information gained from this study in estimating the extent of present off-side damages, sedimentation rates, and in projecting the useful life of planned flood control measures. Administrators of such programs could use the information in determining what land use adjustments that are needed and the amount of conservation measures that must be installed by the local people in such projects before they authorize expenditure of public funds for works of improvement.

Local professional agricultural workers in several West Tennessee counties should find the results of the study helpful when advising farmers on their conservation problems and agricultural programs.

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