Correct usage of the soil is the most important factor in production, according to the Agriculture Guide. Incorrect usage can lead to erosion, a process where wind or water wears away the soil. The remaining earth is depleted of nutrients and the structure of the soil breaks down. When this happens, there is an extensive domino effect, which includes reduced food production, job losses and an increase in natural disasters. It is essential for farmers to play a preventative role.
By keeping the soil covered, farmers prevent erosion. Some do this by using permanent vegetation as waterways. Using ground cover as a channel stabilizes the soil and provides an outlet for water. This method is especially effective on sloped land.
Other farmers keep the ground covered with a crop rotation method. Doing this involves planting one crop, harvesting it, then planting a different crop. When this is done to prevent erosion, farmers plant high residue crops such as small grains and hay. They then use the residue from these crops to help keep the soil intact.
Zero tillage is also referred to as no till farming. This style of farming eliminates the need for a plow. Instead, farmers use special equipment that allows them to make slots or trenches that are a sufficient size and depth for seeds to be planted but that otherwise leave the soil undisturbed.
Farmers whose land is composed of textured soil that is affected by drought face the challenge of wind erosion. This can be countered by tilling perpendicular to the direction of the wind, says California Farmer. This is best done with an implement such as a lister.
Farm ponds are bodies of water that farmers construct on their land to achieve certain goals, such as preventing erosion. These man-made bodies of water trap nutrients from the soil that may otherwise run off into natural bodies of water such as streams and rivers.
Farmers also prevent erosion using strategically selected areas of plants to create barriers. These areas may consist of existing vegetation or deliberately installed vegetation. According to the Encyclopedia of Water Science, there are seven types of vegetative buffers. Some are considered in-field methods, designed to protect erosion within the production area.
Others methods are categorized as edge-of-field buffers. These are designed primarily to trap sediment and infiltrate water. Containing the nutrients instead of allowing them to run off is important because, as the Encyclopedia of Water Science notes, soil with higher levels of organic matter is more stable and less prone to detachment and transport.
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