Don’t let assets blow away

Soil Savvy

By Gurbir Dhillon Ph.D.

Soil erosion will blow away assets every farmer needs. It is still the most widespread form of soil degradation in Canada even though, in the past three decades, the Canadian prairies greatly reduced wind erosion through the adoption of improved land management practices, such as direct seeding, reduced tillage intensity, and reduction in summer fallow fields.

canola stubbel in snow
Canola stubbel holding snow in place to increase soil moisture and prevent wind erosion.

Soil erosion causes harm at its site as well as off-site in the larger environment. The most damaging aspect of erosion is the loss of soil itself. Erosion selectively removes the topsoil from the surface horizon where it is extremely valuable to soil fertility and health.

Furthermore, it impairs the quality of the remaining topsoil due to selective removal of fine mineral particles and organic matter. The offsite damages relate to excess sediments on downstream environments.

stubble trenches
The surface of this field has both stubble and roughness to prevent wind erosion.

Erosion control tactics include keeping a rough soil surface and some vegetation cover. Use appropriate tillage practices to accomplish this. Stubble mulching is effective at reducing wind erosion by holding the soil particles together and reducing wind speed close to the surface.

Higher soil moisture levels also help increase soil cohesiveness and may promote the formation of clods when tilled. Likewise, other practices such as shelterbelts perpendicular to the direction of prevailing wind are effective at reducing wind velocities and trapping drifting soils.