Soil Crusting

Soil crusting can be prevented by several direct and indirect operations, which account for the mechanics of soil crusting and sealing due to rainfall impact, splash-erosion watering of clods, and, eventually, trampling by animals, and machinery compaction of tilled soil. For example, soil crusting and sealing do not occur or are greatly reduced in a soil with a dense plant cover. In arable, freshly tilled soils, especially when in seedbed condition, all factors favoring soil erodibility exist and make the soil susceptible to crusting and sealing. It follows that any natural and/or unnatural factor that reduces soil erodibility is also suitable for crust control.

The soil structural stability is the most important intrinsic condition that can decrease the risk of crust formation. Clay-particle flocculation and cementation by inorganic and organic compounds will consistently restrain the formation of a dense crust under intense rainfall.

Organic fertilization, crop-residue management, rotation including perennial forage crops or rotational pasture, and soil structural conditioning are also suitable measures for reducing the risk of soil crusting and sealing.

Another important direct measure for the control of soil crusting, besides cover crops, is mulching (see Section 4.4).

Direct intervention by cultivation practices (arrowing, disking, chiseling) can be used extensively to break surface crusts, restore soil infiltration capacity, reduce soil evaporation, and enhance the storage of moisture in the rhizosphere, mainly in semiarid rainfed agriculture.

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