Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Has Solutions to Fix Soil Erosion

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Soil erosion is the leading cause of soil degradation in potato production in New Brunswick.

Even if this is the time of year when farmers discover erosion in their fields due to spring run-off, a study completed last year by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist Li Sheng shows spring run-off is only part of the soil loss problem.

Due to the climate, rolling topography and coarse-textured soils, together with the intensive tillage associated with potato production, potato fields are subject to severe water and tillage erosion. Fortunately enough, there are beneficial management practices available to protect soil.

"Water and tillage erosion work together to accelerate soil erosion and nutrient losses on agricultural land. The damage caused by water erosion is well known because the evidence of water erosion is easy to see, rills (very shallow channels) and gullies in the fields, for example. However, rarely do people know that tillage alone can create soil loss on some spots and in many cases is the major reason for eroded soil in the fields."

- Li Sheng, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Potato Research Centre

AAFC is joining other organizations worldwide to celebrate the International Year of Soils 2015 and raise public awareness about the fundamental roles of soils in our daily lives. We are doing our part by leading research and development activities in agri-innovations to enhance both the economic and environmental sustainability of Canadian agriculture.

Key Discoveries

  • The movement of soil sediment from the field to nearby waterways is mainly through channelized flows.
  • The interaction between water and tillage erosion is a major reason for soil leaving a field.
  • Tillage erosion is caused by the differences in the amount of soil being moved by tillage at different locations in the field. These differences are related to topography.
  • Variations in soil movement by tillage in a field can cause tillage erosion, often shown as soil loss on hilltops and soil accumulation in depressional areas.
  • Soil conservation practices such as conservation tillage, mulching, and soil conservation structures such as terraces and grassed waterways can help reduce water erosion.
  • Minimizing tillage passes and controlling the variations of tillage speed and depth can reduce tillage erosion.
  • An emphasis on landscape-based, integrated soil conservation in farm fields can make these remedial measures more effective. Soil conservation practices need to be applied or placed strategically and managed properly to maximize their effects. For example, grassed waterways should be placed along natural flow paths. Terrace systems should only be constructed on long slopes using well maintained grassed waterways as flow paths.

Photo Gallery

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Gully erosion
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Grass terracing
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Grass waterway
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Snow melt erosion

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