Spring Showers Bring Erosion Powers

Farm field

Erosion to Look Out For

Soil erosion is a natural process in which soil is picked up and transported from one place to another by powerful forces like wind and water. During wet springtime weather, we can often spot erosion caused by water in our gardens, yards, or fields. Land that has no vegetation — including farm fields left barren — are especially vulnerable.

Here are a few types of erosion to look out for:

Sheet erosion occurs when soil particles are carried evenly over the surface by water, resulting in the removal of a thin, uniform layer of soil. This often goes unnoticed until most of the topsoil is gone, but if you see a buildup of soil and other debris at the bottom of slopes and in depressions, it’s often a sure sign of sheet erosion.

Farmers field of dirt.
Sheet erosion.

Rill erosion occurs when surface water concentrates and forms pathways of small but well-defined channels, often referred to as rills. These rills can be up to 0.3 meters deep.

Rill erosion.

Gully erosion is the advanced stage of rill erosion. If a rill becomes deeper than 0.3 meters, it’s referred to as a gully. This often occurs when an erosion issue isn’t addressed, and channels become deeper over time. The result is a significant loss of topsoil. 

Gully erosion.

Protecting Your Soil

While erosion is a natural process, in some cases, the overgrazing of farm animals, as well as human activities like deforestation and tillage, can leave land exposed to the elements and intensify erosion.

Soil erosion left unchecked can have both economic and environmental impacts. The loss of organic topsoil reduces soil fertility, decreases crop productivity, and contributes to the pollution of nearby rivers, lakes and streams. Thankfully, soil conservation practices can help.

We covered many of these practices like planting cover crops and reducing tillage in our recent five-part series on soil. However, sometimes, when a major erosion problem is detected, the first step may be to manage the flow of water with an erosion control structure. These systems help control the flow of water by slowing it down or re-directing it underground or away from sensitive areas. Erosion control structures can be costly and must be carefully designed, usually by a qualified professional. They should also be used in combination with other soil conservation practices.

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