Sometimes called “black gold,” Iowa’s deep, rich soils are a treasure that formed over thousands of years under the very best of the world’s grasslands—the tallgrass prairie. The soils are diverse and complex and hold within them a record not only of Iowa’s prehistoric past, but also of the changes that took place after settlers utterly transformed the land, as well as the ongoing adjustments taking place today due to climate change. In language that is scientifically sound but accessible to the layperson, Kathleen Woida explains how soils formed and have changed over centuries and millennia in the land between two rivers.
Its soils are what make Iowa a premier agricultural state, both in terms of acres planted and bushels harvested. But in the last hundred years, large-scale intensive agriculture and urban development have severely degraded most of our soils. However, as Woida documents, some innovative Iowans are beginning to repair and regenerate their soils by treating them as the living ecosystem and vast carbon store that they are. To paraphrase Aldo Leopold, these new pioneers are beginning to see their soils as part of a community to which they and their descendants belong, rather than commodities belonging to them.
“This is a remarkable book. Woida’s knowledge of, reverence for, and joy in soils infuses each page. With friendly scientific authority, she seamlessly connects the natural history of the landscape with its human history. This is a book for all who care about Iowa.”—Michael Thompson, Iowa State University
“Woida illustrates a biological history of Iowa’s black gold. She weaves together the past and present of Iowa’s soils, and communicates an appreciation of what we stand to lose if we don’t care for it into the future.”—Sarah Carlson, Practical Farmers of Iowa
“Woida uses her career experience to explain the complex processes of soil formation, taxonomy, classification, and the destructive results of farming practices in Iowa’s water and soils, and she does it all in easy-to-understand terms. Iowa’s Remarkable Soils is an informative and enjoyable read.”—Barb Stewart, former state agronomist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
“This book argues for an environmentally conscionable approach to preserving Iowa's greatest natural resource—its soils. Woida largely succeeds in . . . providing a rationale for rural and urban communities to collaborate in conserving Iowa’s soils, a program for which she demonstrates unabashed passion. Farmers, as presented here, are both victims of economics and the protagonists of conservation. They are the heroes of this narrative, promoting soil health by undertaking changes to conventional practices.”—Choice