Soil erosion by water is a geologic process that has occurred since the Earth formed. The most common human activities leading to accelerated erosion are agricultural practices that occur over vast areas covered with soils that are very productive but easily eroded if not protected from erosive forces. Soil eroded from agricultural land carries with it fertilizer, animal wastes, herbicides, and insecticides. The economic and ecological cost of erosion from agricultural land depends on the relative value of productive soil versus downstream water quality. In the United States in the early 1990s, emphasis changed from protecting the soil resource to protecting downstream water quality for human consumption, fisheries habitat, and recreation. But with worldwide efforts to increase production of crops for both food and energy production, efforts to limit soil erosion for the sake of maintaining productive cropland remain of critical importance.

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