MANHATTAN, Kan., May 18 (UPI) — A joint U.S. Department of Agriculture-university study suggests no-till farming can make soil much more stable than plowed soil.
The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service joined a team led by Kansas State University Assistant Professor Humberto Blanco-Canqui in studying the effects of more than 19 years of various tillage practices across the central Plains.
The team discovered no-till stores more soil carbon, which helps bind or glue soil particles together, making the first inch of topsoil two to seven times less vulnerable to the destructive force of raindrops than is plowed soil.
The researchers said the structure of the aggregates in the first inch of topsoil is the first line of defense against soil erosion by water or wind. They said understanding the resistance of such aggregates to the erosive forces of wind and rain is critical to evaluating soil erodibility, especially in semiarid regions where low precipitation, high evaporation and yield variability can interact with intensive tillage to alter aggregate properties and soil organic matter content.
Tillage makes soil less resistant to being broken apart by raindrops because the clumping is disrupted and soil organic matter is lost through oxidation when soil particles are exposed to air.
The study that included the University of Nebraska-Sidney and ARS researchers Maysoon Mikha, Joe Benjamin and Merle Vigil was reported in a recent issue of the Soil Science Society of America Journal.
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