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When it comes to soil erosion, leftovers from making cheese may be the "whey" to go, say USDA researchers.

They have found that pumping cottage cheese whey onto sloped, furrow-irrigated fields can cut soil erosion losses between 65 and 75 percent.In the West, more than 500 million tons of valuable topsoil wash off during furrow irrigation each year.

Whey could become an erosion fighter because it is abundant and inexpensive. Left over from cheese production, whey is slightly milky and watery and is a little sticky because of its sugar and protein content. Cottage cheese whey has about the same pH as vinegar, and the acidity also benefits the soil.

About half of the 2 million tons of acidic whey produced in the U.S. each year currently goes to waste.