Living Mulch - Control of Erosion

Control of Erosion

Vegetative cover as living mulches protect soil against wind and water erosion. Plants should form a mantle or thick mulch that protect soil from detachment. Living mulches intercept raindrops and reduce runoff. The protection that such vegetation provides against wind is influenced mainly by the amount of biomass that covers the ground (differs with each spp), plant geometry and row orientation.

In one experiment, water runoff and soil loss on a 14% slope was compared for rototilled (RT), no-till with corn stover mulch (NTCMS), no-till in CSM+ birdsfoot trefoil living mulch (NT-BFT) and no till in CSM and crownvetch living mulch (NT-CV). The results indicated that the water runoff was 6,350 L ha-1 for NT-BFT, 6,350 L ha-1 NO-CSM, 5,925 L ha-1 for NT-CV, and 145,000 L ha-1 for RT. The soil loss for the RT was 14.22 t ha-1 while with the other treatments it was less than 0.5 tons ha-1. The least soil loss was obtained with NT-CV 0.02 tons ha-1. The reduction of water runoff and erosion is one of the greatest advantages of having a cover crop. Soil can be easily eroded with no vegetative ground cover or plant residue. Ideally soil erosion should be less than 4 to 5 tons/ha/year.

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