Fields that are Naked, Beat Up and Starving are Exposed to Soil Erosion

Posted: May 4, 2017

Spring is a very vulnerable time for soil if it is uncovered, tilled up, and devoid of organic matter. This week’s heavy rainstorms caused significant erosion on exposed soils.

Thunderstorms rolled through western and central Pennsylvania Monday night and caused significant erosion on exposed soils. There were even reports of tornadoes that caused significant damage. It is interesting that these heavy storms are hitting us in the spring because traditionally heavy thunderstorms are limited to the summer. Many people think runoff causes soil erosion but the impact of raindrops on the bare soil is really the most important factor – the runoff primarily transports the soil from the field although scouring also remove some. Last night my colleague took this picture of a hay field that had just been tilled and planted. It shows a very large amount of soil that was lost from this field. They also drove past established hay and no-till crop fields but didn’t see a lot of erosion there. This teaches us again about the importance of soil cover at all times to protect the soil from the impact of raindrops; to avoid disturbing the soil so that the aggregates remain intact and organic matter accumulation at the surface; and to promote living roots in the soil at all times by planting cover crops after main crops come off.

Contact Information

Sjoerd Willem Duiker
  • Associate Professor of Soil Management and Applied Soil Physics
Phone: 814-863-7637