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Preventing Soil Erosion

written by: Atula Gupta•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 10/31/2010

Top soil is the most important nutrient rich source for plants and if soil erosion occurs, plant growth and survival is hindered. Here you can find various ways of preventing soil erosion.

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    Soil Erosion Prevention

    Soil erosion occurs when wind or water causes the top soil to erode and wash away. In recent times though, human activities have caused 10 times more soil erosion than natural elements. These activities include agriculture, construction, grazing by farm animals and deforestation. Even the act of watering plants in a garden may cause the loss of top soil due to the extreme force with which water comes out of the hose.

    If soil erosion occurs in excess, the land may become totally devoid of the top soil that harbors the growth of plants. Soil erosion then becomes a problem for these reasons:

    • Top soil is the richest source of nutrients for plants. If it is eroded, an important source of plant nutrient is depleted.
    • When the top soil washes away, the soil of the lower layers crust easily. This makes it harder for the seeds to break through or rain water to be absorbed by the soil.
    • Unwanted gullies or holes may be created in the garden or the field.
    • The soil that is washed away may be deposited in rivers and lakes, affecting the aquatic ecosystem.
    • Herbicides and pesticides present in the top soil may harm aquatic life forms.

    Fortunately, there are various methods through which soil erosion can be prevented. Here are some of them.

    Mulching – Mulching is a very good way of protecting the top soil from washing away. You can cover the soil with any kind of mulch like newspaper, bark chips, dead leaves or pine needles. Mulching not only helps control erosion, but also increases water penetration of the soil, keeps it cool and increases the organic nutrient of the soil.

    Matting – There are erosion control blankets, coconut fiber matting, or jute netting available that help protect barren patches of soil. These are also advantageous because they are mostly made up of biodegradable material. If you have slopes, mats help prevent the soil from eroding until the plants can establish themselves.

    Retaining walls – A retaining wall around the garden area is most often made of bricks or stones and is a common way of preventing soil erosion. In extreme slope areas, a wooden retaining wall can also be created and can be quite useful. But if you are using wood, it is important to treat it with a wood preservative to prevent rotting. Other materials like rocks and interlocking concrete blocks can also be used.

    Sandbags – If you have uprooted trees around your home, removed grass or other vegetation, the chances of the soil getting eroded due to floods, rain, wind etc. are much greater. Sandbags are an easy way to protect the soil when you do not wish to construct a permanent wall around your home with wood or concrete. The bags stacked on top of one another should form a pyramid shape with no more than three layers. These are helpful if there are chances of water flow as they divert the water and debris from the soil. Sandbags need to be replaced from time to time if the water movement is extreme.

    Paving – Many times erosion occurs due to vehicle movement, shoveling of the snow or general movement. This can be avoided by paving the frequented path using permanent concrete blocks or stones.

    Plants – The most effective way to stop soil from eroding is by planting trees, flowering plants or even grass across the land. The roots of plants help hold the soil from becoming eroded by water or wind and thus protect the top soil. Barren land is always vulnerable to erosion and even if you are planning to plant a particular crop or plant for a particular season, you can protect the top soil by a cover crop. Creepers are especially found useful as they spread on the soil instead of growing upwards and thereby covering and protecting a large area.

    Ditches –In a garden you can form terraces separated by ditches to let the water flow into these and to also cut the effect of the soil washing away. When ditches are made around the entire home they create a barricade against the rain water, water from floods, etc. from causing further erosion. The water carrying the eroded soil falls into the ditches preventing the complete loss of the top soil.

    Irrigation System - There are various new kinds of irrigation systems available on the market that allow the water to trickle down into the soil rather than fall with fierce pressure behind it. These help reduce erosion due to watering of plants in the garden.

    Windbreak – Wind erosion can be kept in check by placing natural or man-made barricades that break the strong winds from eroding your soil. These windbreaks can be a row of tall trees forming a boundary and a protective wall against the wind. These can also include high bushes or even plastic snow fences.

    Important Note

    Before you adopt any kind of prevention method, you should first analyze the kind of erosion taking place on your property and the depth of the soil eroded. This helps in selecting the best method of preventing soil erosion specifically occurring due to human actitivities, water, wind or a lower percentage of plants growing in your land.

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