Preventing Soil Erosion on Your Land
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If you wish to build a sustainable homestead then it is critical that you know how to control soil erosion in all its forms. Just a quick recap if you didn't read my last post soil erosion is caused by wind and water moving the soil from one place to another. It will depend on your location and management practices which type of erosion is more devastating to your land.
If you live in high wind and dry areas like the Great Plains of America then wind is your primary concern as it can take exposed soil and carry it off . During the Dust Bowl areas that were hit hard by it lost over 5 inches of topsoil by 1938. When it takes 1000 years to form a inch of soil losing 5 inches can be devastating to local ecosystems and agriculture.
But back to the focus of this post which is preventing soil erosion from happening. The method to prevent soil erosion is a simple idea on paper but can be hard to do in reality.
Soil doesn't like to be naked...
What I mean by that is that if you want your soil to perform at its best in all conditions it needs to be covered by a protective coating of organic matter. It prefers to have living perennial biomass like grasses but it will take whatever it can get. So if you want to prevent soil erosion from both wind and water keep your soil covered with some sort of vegetation.
It works on both because wind and water move in the same way as described by a branch of physics called fluid dynamics. As wind and water hit obstructions on the soil i.e plant matter it slows them down. The slower the movement, the less erosive power the wind or water has. It is relatively easy to keep all your garden beds covered with plants or a mulch layer but when you start dealing with farm size agriculture then it gets trickier. The best thing you can do is minimize tillage of the fields or go no-till and leave as much organic matter on the field as possible.
The nice thing about keeping soil covered is that when it does start to move it will get stopped and dropped back to the soil surface as it runs into plant matter. So technically soil will be moving around on the field but it won't get very far because every direction it goes it runs into something.
But keeping everything covered in plant matter is only part of the battle you also have to plan according to local topography, climate and soil class
You don't want to garden on slopes as they just give water a running start on eroding away your soil. You get one bad rainstorm and you will watch your garden wash away. You can mitigate this issue by building terraces on sloped fields which reduce the steepness of the slope. But if you can avoid exposing soil on slopes I would recommend it.
You soil class is also key to fighting erosion. Some soils are more likely to erode then others and knowing your soil and its erosive potential can save you a lot of headache. To learn more about your soils erosive potential do a texture test on it to figure out what class of soil it is.