Influence of Crop and Land Management on Wind Erosion from Sandy Soils in Dryland Agriculture

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Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute

Minimizing wind erosion on agricultural fields is of great interest to farmers. There is a general understanding that vegetation can greatly minimize the wind erosion taking place. However, after harvest, a low vegetation cover can be inevitable, whereby the amount of stubble that remains on a field is dependent on the crop type and land management. This study aims at quantifying the vulnerability to wind erosion of different crops, and the possibility to predict the vulnerability based on high precision aerial images. The study area was the semi-arid Free State, which holds large intensive agriculture on sandy soils. These croplands have been identified as the largest emitter of dust in South Africa. The main crop in the region is maize, but also sunflower, peanut and fallow fields are common land-use types. On these fields, the horizontal sediment flux, the saltation threshold, and aerodynamic roughness length were measured, and the soil cover was assessed using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) imagery. The results showed a strong relationship between the soil cover and the sediment flux, whereby fallow and groundnut fields have the highest wind erosion risk. These results emphasize the great importance of soil cover management to prevent wind erosion.