Erosion has happened since the earth formed. It’s a natural process that occurs over time. Traditional farming practices, like heavy fertilization and over-tilling, have progressed the degradation of soil health and have caused further erosion over the years.
As modern farmers begin to see the consequences of traditional farming, they’re implementing regenerative practices to restore soil health. This both benefits the farmers, as they’re able to produce better crops, and it benefits the land since regenerative practices do much less harm to the soil, and they can prevent erosion.
Below are 10 tips for avoiding erosion with regenerative agriculture practices so you can get back to farming without worrying about losing a crop due to erosion.
1. Plant Cover Crops
It’s both a regenerative agriculture practice and a known practice for reducing soil erosion. Besides enriching the topsoil, cover cropping shields the topsoil from wind and waters that could erode it.
2. Practice No-Till or Low-Till
When you till the land too much, you’re disrupting the soil. With each disruption, you remove the diversity of soil microbes and loosen the soil’s structure, so your plants can’t stay stable above the soil.
Leave crops in the ground even after you harvest. As they break down, they leave behind essential nutrients to enrich the soil and keep it in place. If you have to till, reduce the number of times you till.
3. Monitor Livestock Grazing
Finding a balance in livestock grazing allows your soil to regenerate after a grazing period. It also adds extra nutrients into the soil — as animals navigate the land, they’ll leave behind manure to fertilize the land.
Managed grazing is key to regenerative agriculture. Cattle and other livestock are strategically moved between fields. As they leave one field, the soil can repair, which avoids erosion.
4. Use Compost as Fertilizer
Instead of using chemically formulated fertilizers on your crops, opt for natural compost. Chemical fertilizers can strip away your land. Not to mention, they can pollute the soil, water, and even the air.
Composting accelerated decomposition of organic materials. The result is a fertilizer full of various nutrients that will stabilize soils and prevent them from eroding. Compost also won’t add to pollution.
5. Add Trees
Trees are natural windbreakers. Their leaves slow down the force of the wind. Planting a row of trees around your fields acts as a windbreaker, which can prevent topsoil erosion on bare fields.
You could also plant crops in between already-existing rows of trees, which is called agroforestry. It increases plant diversity and guards against soil erosion.
6. Vary What You Plant
Many large agricultural corporations plant a ton of corn and soybeans. These are essential products for much of the food and other items you see in the store. However, a lack of variety strips the soil of its integrity and nutrients.
Add diversity to what you plant to avoid erosion. It builds healthy soils. Additionally, you can rotate crops to have the same effect. It mimics the way plants would naturally grow and strengthens soils.
7. Build Water Diversions
There are a few types of erosion, one of them being from runoff. When a heavy downpour hits, soils that are dry or lack nutrients can be swept away by running water.
If you struggle with erosion due to water, build water diversions. These can more effectively distribute the water across your land to prevent erosion.
8. Integrate Livestock
Similar to managed grazing, integrating livestock in your crops allows for natural nutrient cycling. The separation of animals from crops has increased pollution, risked animal health, and led to improper disposal of manure.
However, by allowing livestock to roam your crops, they can provide nutrients that strengthen the soil. Therefore, you mitigate erosion.
9. Mulch With Plants
Unsure of what to do with weeds or leftover stalks from crops? Use them as mulch. You can spread weeds, flowers, herbs, and leaves across crops to help prevent erosion.
Mulch locks in moisture and adds extra nutrients to your topsoil as the mulch breaks down. This both prevents erosion and regenerates the topsoil.
10. Contour Farm
Instead of planting crops in straight rows, follow the natural lines provided in the landscape. While contour farming often involves tilling, you can still plant without over-tilling.
Planting this way creates reservoirs for water so the soil won’t runoff. It redistributes the water so your crops get even coverage.
Keep Your Soil in Place
Soils in all climates are essential to the global carbon cycle. As Arctic soil continues to thaw, it further accelerates climate change, creating a harmful cycle that will impact future populations. To help fight climate change, farmers committed to sustainable agriculture, scientists, and researchers champion soil conservation, which promotes healthy, fertile, productive, and resilient soils.
With these tips, you can prevent soil erosion on your farm. Erosion can quickly ruin a crop, but if you’re careful to build up your soil’s strength and protect it, you’ll have healthy fields.