Erosion

March 25, 2019

I get people asking me all the time what to plant on their properties. There are so many factors that come into play but the one thing I ask of people is to send me an aerial map. Aerial maps give me a feel for the lay of the land but they do not tell the big picture. Once I get on a person's property, I get a much better understanding of how a plan will come together. What is below my feet and before my eyes, begins the process of forming a plan for long term sustainability.

 

I too often see people planting corn and soybeans on steep slopes. It is rare that I get onto a property and the client has any form of erosion control in place. Topsoil is essential for productivity. Once our top soil is eroded away, the chances of having successful growth is severely diminished. It only take a moment in time for soil loss but it takes decades to built it back up. It is imperative for land owners to learn to be better land stewards. 

 

The most common form of erosion is from rain. Heavy rains can wash away top soil rapidly. Anytime we have bare ground or ground with low levels of soil surface residue, this can happen. We need to understand that we might need to use companion crops, cover crops and contour strip practices to reduce erosion. 

 

On fields that are severely sloped, people should think long and hard about planting row crops. If they insist on planting row crops, keep in mind the direction of planting those crops. You might be better to plant across the slope , than up and down the slope. In larger fields, consider putting in contour strips consisting of alfalfa or other perennial blends. You also would want to consider planting strips of corn, soybeans, and perennials across the slope. 

 

Again, try to prevent extended periods of bare ground. You can plant clovers or brassicas between the corn rows. You can overseed your soybeans in the early fall. You also want to plant what grows best on your soil and property fertilize it to maximize growth. Thin stands lead to an increased chance of erosion. 

 

Be aware than erosion can take place by wind. These big open areas can be susceptible to wind erosion. Planting trees, annual and perennial screenings and forms of wind breaks are things we want to do on our properties. 

 

Lastly, there is mechanical erosion. When one drives over the slopes and work these areas, soil is moved. Too often we run heavy equipment across areas that are erodible and we need to be aware of the movement of soils. 

 

We need to create a vision and plan for long term sustainability. We need to set up our bedding areas to help reduce erosion. We need to plant our food plots in ways to best maintain soil integrity. We need to do our best to have something growing on our land as many days a year as possible. This is where working with a consultant who understand soils and conservation can be the most important time spend on creating your plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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