Conservation districts often rent conservation-tillage equipment to farmers. But this may be a first: The Crawford County, Iowa, Soil and Water Conservation District is helping farmers purchase dirt scrapers to prevent or repair soil erosion. Seven farmers responded to the district's offer of $1,000 toward the cost of a new scraper, and five recipients were chosen by lottery. Pull-type 5-cu.-yd. to 7-cu.-yd. scrapers typically cost $10,000 to $13,000.
Farmer and conservation district commissioner Roger McCaffrey came up with the idea. For 10 years, he's used a 5-cu.-yd. scraper to install or clean out waterways and to repair erosion areas. "Even with terraces and 100% no-till, small ditches can show up after erosive rains," McCaffrey says. "With a small scraper, you can fix the areas and fill them with the soil that used to be there. Many times, if you fill them well enough, the water no longer concentrates and flows as strongly [as before], and no-till keeps them from forming again."
"A lot of soil erosion is in the form of ephemeral gullies," says Jay Ford, a USDA–Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist in Denison, Iowa. "Putting eroded soil back into an ephemeral gully [where it came from] leaves a less erosive cross-section. "I've also seen farmers use scrapers to reclaim eroded topsoil and spread it on thin spots on side hills," Ford adds. "It's an especially timely idea because many areas had very erosive rains in 2008." The district raised the funds by selling trees for windbreaks.