In early spring 2011, crop yield in Missouri farmland along the Mississippi River looked promising, with rows of plants just beginning to grow. But record rainfall threatened to overfill the river and flood Cairo, Illinois. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was forced open a levee near Bird’s Point in southeastern Missouri, upstream of Cairo, to relieve the swollen river. The resulting flood displaced acres of earth, leaving behind gullies and rills that resemble small versions of desert areas out west.

The estimated damage to Missouri farmland has surpassed 100 million dollars.1 In a University of Missouri news release, agriculture professor Gene Stevens argued in favor of restoring the farmland to a usable status as soon as possible, since “the counties bordering the Mississippi and Missouri rivers account for almost 60 percent of the state’s corn and more than 52 percent of soybean production.”2

The university’s news site featured photographs showing the dramatic damage.3 Gullies were scoured out, leaving behind earthen towers. Recent Texas floods produced similar topography.4 If local floods can carve small steep-walled valleys and leave behind miniature plateaus, then massive continent-wide floods might be expected to carve similar structures on a much larger scale….

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