Wind erosion can hurt the land in various ways, and that is why many people ask which method best helps to prevent wind erosion.
Because of wind erosion, fertility declines, organic matter disappears, water retention drops, and the soil’s surface roughness shifts as a result.
Moreover, it raises the ground, causes flooding in ditches, and contaminates the atmosphere.
In short, it is not just a threat to farmers, but to everyone in society. But, how to prevent wind erosion in the first place?
The best way to prevent wind erosion is through a vegetation cover because it keeps the soil particles together and withstands high winds better.
Understanding Wind Erosion
Soil can be moved from one site to another via wind erosion, a naturally occurring process. It inflicts high costs on the economy and the environment.
Both light and strong winds can have an impact here. For instance:
- Light winds induce wind erosion by rolling soil particles along the surface.
- Strong winds cause dust storms by lifting vast quantities of soil particles into the air.
Though it is particularly deadly to prairies, it may cause devastation in any environment.
Wind erosion damage to the soil is usually localized, yet it is still present. It is more likely to hurt easily dried soils, such as fine sand and silt.
Similarly, well-decomposed organic soils, which are light and easily carried up by the wind when dry and finely granulated, are also vulnerable.
The Perils of Wind Erosion
Wind erosion becomes a major issue when natural vegetation is cut down or eliminated.
As long as the local plants and climate are suitable, it can happen everywhere.
Many people believe wind erosion only happens in the dry western regions, but in reality, it may happen anywhere with dry, unprotected soil.
Traditional field preparation methods, such as tillage, increase the risk of wind erosion. It hurts by:
- Reducing soil aggregation
- Removing residue
- Drying the soil
Similarly, the wind can pick up soil particles and carry them across the fields if there is not enough moisture to keep them bound.
The erosion of soils is a serious problem that can weaken ecosystems. Therefore, it is important to take preventive measures to curb erosion and to ensure soils can maintain:
- Food production
- Nutrient cycling
Which Method Best Helps to Prevent Wind Erosion?
Topsoil is the term used to describe the layer of soil immediately below the surface known for its high fertility.
With less healthy soil, crop yields decrease and commercial fertilizer is needed in greater quantities to make up the difference. But, all this can be prevented by curbing wind erosion.
Covering Soil with Vegetation
When looking for the best way to prevent wind erosion, no one can argue the importance of covering the soil with vegetation.
Vegetation acts as a barrier to wind erosion, protecting soil from loss. Standard cultivation procedures to produce annual crops and certain clean cultivated row crops can eliminate vegetation.
This allows wind to take more control over the soil. Therefore, the easiest and most efficient method of preventing soil erosion caused by wind is to cover it with vegetation.
But, remember there are situations where a vegetative cover is impossible and alternative methods must be employed.
Make Use of Cover Crops
Erosion can cause serious damage to bare soil. Due to the high temperatures, some crops may be harvested prematurely.
Growers can shield their soils from erosion by planting cover crops. Some good examples are:
- Grasses between harvests
The primary function of cover crops is to protect the soil from erosion when no other crops are present. They are planted soon after the primary crop has been harvested.
Consider the Time of the Year
Besides annual ryegrass, species of legumes like red clover are quite useful as cover crops. But, you can choose cover crops based on the time of the year.
For instance, for late summer planting, you can go with cereal crops, such as barley and oats. And, you can go with rye in the fall or opt for winter wheat.
Fact: Some cover crops reduce the growth of fungal diseases, restore carbon levels, and provide food and shelter for wildlife.
Go with Perennial Grasses
The ideal long-term defense against wind erosion is a thick covering of perennial grasses.
The soil cover of this sort is typically used for hay or pasture. Mixing grasses with other crops is possible, including tree fruits.
Make Use of Strip Cropping
Soil erosion can be reduced by planting strips of vegetation between rows of crops perpendicular to the direction of the wind.
Vegetation of any height and density is helpful, although thicker forests have a greater effect.
For this purpose, you can go with the legumes, cereals, or grasses of your choice. More efficient than low-growing plants are rows of little fruit, trees, or ornamental bushes.
Fact: Grazing livestock helps maintain grassland habitats and provide for native species, but overgrazing often contributes to wind erosion.
Other Ways to Minimize the Effects of Wind Erosion
A vegetation cover is probably the best way to prevent wind erosion, but you can also take advantage of some other methods. For instance:
A crop’s roots and stems left in the ground after harvest provide a natural anchor, protecting the soil from the wind.
Having crop leftover and stubble around reduces the speed of the air just above the soil.
This in turn makes it less likely that the wind will be able to pick up soil particles and start the erosion process.
Additionally, residue shields soil from the destructive effects of raindrop impact and helps mitigate the devastation caused by freeze-thaw cycles.
An Important Consideration
There is an advantage to leaving plant remains on the field since they help prevent erosion.
Therefore, unless a cover crop has had time to establish itself before winter, it is advised to avoid plowing in the fall in erosion-prone locations.
Preventing wind erosion requires not disking or performing other operations that leave the soil thoroughly granulated during times of high risk.
And that is when you have to be careful about tillage.
Among the most common ways of preparing the land for producing crops is the practice of soil tillage. The process involves stirring, digging, and overturning the soil.
It may be necessary for some situations, but the soil’s internal structure might be damaged by excessive tilling.
For the most part, tillage is a destructive practice mainly because of two reasons.
- It destroys soil aggregates.
- It disrupts the soil’s natural structure.
Therefore, tillage should be avoided or maintained to a minimum, as fine soil particles are the most susceptible to wind erosion.
An Important Consideration
Preserving the soil’s structure is critical for a number of reasons, including increasing the soil’s resistance to erosion and the amount of water it can absorb.
Reducing or eliminating conventional tillage has proved to be an effective strategy for protecting farmland from erosion.
You need to avoid it, and in particular, stay away from using a rotary tiller.
Fact: A rotary tiller is operated at high speeds, so the soil is pulverized, leaving it vulnerable to wind erosion.
Utilize Windbreaks and Shelterbelts
Deposition after a barrier, such as a windbreak, can greatly reduce soil particle mobility.
Wind erosion is similar to the snowdrifts that accumulate behind a snow fence, except that it affects soil instead of snow.
This is when tree and shrub hedges come in handy.
In order to provide year-round, varied, and dense cover, a variety of species should be used in the planting.
Shelterbelts provide some ventilation, which prevents the buildup of turbulent air pressure behind walls.
Keep in mind that there may be a temporary drop in production for crops in close proximity to shelterbelts.
But, studies have also shown that yields for crops cultivated in areas with shelterbelts rise overall.
An Important Consideration
Fencing is an alternative to permanent shelterbelts that can be deployed in emergency situations.
The ideal porosity for a wind fence is between 30 and 50 percent.
It means you should let some airflow through the fence for its integrity, but it certainly helps reduce the wind speed.
Fact: Farmers in areas where wind erosion is a problem often use center pivot irrigation for the dry soil surface and prevent it from flying away.
So, which method best helps to prevent wind erosion?
Well, you can try quite a few, but ultimately, it comes down to how well the soil has been covered with vegetation.
Also, you may want to avoid certain harmful practices such as tillage to reduce the impact of wind erosion.