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Updated: August 8, 2017
Rill and gully erosion is the detachment and transport of soil by concentrated flow of water. Rills are small enough to be removed by normal tillage operations. Once they become deeper than about a foot, and too big to drive across with a tractor, they become gullies. Reports are coming in of rill erosion on fields with little crop residue - especially in soybean stubble or bare corn silage ground. The problem is increased if the subsoil is frozen but the surface starts to thaw because the water cannot infiltrate. The surface soil turns into a liquid and soon after water starts to puddle runoff is the inevitable result. If the soil is bare and unprotected rill erosion can become a serious problem, especially if slopes are long. This is especially worrisome in long-term no-till fields where these concentrated flow paths will grow over time and turn into gullies. This is why it is so important to manage your soil so that the chance of rill erosion in the winter is reduced.
Key points are:
Soil erosion is still our number on enemy in agriculture - it causes soil productivity to decline and pollutes our surface waters. Keeping soil in place should be first on every producer's mind but it involves planning and preparation because once runoff starts it is too late and one is left with only remediation as an option.
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