An environmental activist says too much of Iowa’s fertile soil is now under parking lots, houses and buildings. Jim Motavalli, editor of “E” — The Environmental Magazine, says he hopes recent droughts have taught people the importance of two basic elements — water and dirt. Motavalli says one chief concern is whether Midwestern farmers will be able to grow enough food to feed our world’s expanding number of people.

Motavalli says “The earth’s population is still growing despite the fact in some places it’s beginning to shrink a bit, but we will grow a lot before we really begin to level off as a species. We’ll probably get to nine-billion and we’ll reach seven-billion on the planet in just 12 years.” He says farmers, particularly in Iowa, must improve on no-till methods, end pesticide use and learn to plant crops that are more environment-friendly. Motavalli says we are pushing it when it comes to the amount of consumables we can squeeze out of each acre of cropland or pasture.

Motavalli says “We’ve paved over a lot of our most fertile soil in recent years and that’s a big problem. We have a tiny fraction of the number of farmers we had 100 years ago and a much smaller number of farms also so a lot of that former farmland is no longer being tilled.” He says he’s encouraged that our nation is finding ways to replace fossil fuels with things like corn-based ethanol. Motavalli suggests we not stop with corn as South American nations make ethanol from sugar cane.

Motavalli says “We could possibly have a sugar cane industry in the U.S., in Florida and maybe some of the other southern states. It could well be possible that switchgrass becomes a huge Midwestern crop. We may legalize the production of industrial hemp in the U.S. and that could become a huge Midwestern crop.” He says we need to continue to explore these alternatives before urban sprawl gobbles up much more of our valuable resource — dirt.