University of Missouri Brings FarmVille to Reality

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It’s FarmVille, in real life.

Many fields started producing crops long before anyone kept records of the physical and chemical properties of the soil. Since researchers can’t go back in time, Ashish Mudgal, a recent doctoral student in soil science at the University of Missouri at Columbia, did the next best thing.

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Using a computer simulator  he went back in time in America’s farmland and chronicled, year-by-year, the effects of 100 years of agriculture on claypan soils. Such information, according to Discovery News, allows farmers and conservationists alike to develop strategies moving forward that will protect or restore the land’s fertility.

Mudgal’s research found dramatic changes in soil fertility and pesticide runoff throughout the century, including a 39% drop in corn yields and a 75% drop in soybean yields.

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“These results show that the restoration of agricultural lands would be beneficial not only to enhance crop yields but also to reduce nonpoint-source pollution,” Mudgal said in the university’s press release.