Agrobiological Measures

Agroecosystem management is one of the most important factors controlling soil erosion at field, farm, and watershed scales.

In natural vegetation systems, such as forest, savannah, and prairie, soil erosion depends on the interaction between climatic parameters (rainfall, wind, humidity, solar radiation, and temperature) and vegetation growth, provided that other conditions such as geomorphology and soil type are constant.

Figure 4.33. (a) Low toe wall, which permits slope flattening and establishment of vegetation on slope above. Encroachment on land use or right of way at foot of slope is minimized. (b) Toe-bench structure, which buttresses base of slope and creates level bench on which to establish vegetative screen. Bench also catches debris coming off the slope above. Source: [28].

Figure 4.33. (a) Low toe wall, which permits slope flattening and establishment of vegetation on slope above. Encroachment on land use or right of way at foot of slope is minimized. (b) Toe-bench structure, which buttresses base of slope and creates level bench on which to establish vegetative screen. Bench also catches debris coming off the slope above. Source: [28].

In agricultural systems, on the other hand, vegetation cover and soil conditions can assume different (management-derived) characteristics with the seasons of the year, depending on the

• choice of annual and/or perennial crops,

• crop stage from sowing to harvest,

• cropping system (monoculture, intercropping, or mixed cropping),

• planned spatial geometry of the plants on the soil,

• soil type and crop management technology.

Seeking the maximum economic productivity of any crop, it is fundamental to avoid competition between plants of the same cultivated species (intraspecific competition), and between cultivated plants and weeds (interspecific competition).

Plant architecture represents a specific manifestation of an interaction between genotype and environment, whereas the geometry of plant distribution in a field and the soil management system employed are a consequence of crop cultivation technology. The latter usually has the ultimate aim of maximizing economic productivity with respect to costs. Sometimes there is a conflict between soil protection and optimal soil and crop management for maximum production. Sowing of annual crops, for example, is traditionally done on a bare seedbed of plowed soil, which means that the whole period of soil preparation and crop establishment is particularly vulnerable to soil erosion.

In agricultural systems, soil erosion depends on the interaction between the following factors:

• the variability in the protection of soil cover during the crop cycle,

• the variability of soil surface conditions due to tillage practices during the crop cycle,

• The residual effects of soil and crop management from preceding crops. Specific soil conservation technology for water erosion control, therefore, concerns both soil and vegetation management measures.

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