Preventing Soil Erosion Can Save Irrigation Water

Though the winter rains have passed, out-of-season rainfall, irrigation runoff, and other forces can affect soil structure and texture on farms. So as farmers prepare for spring planting, erosion prevention should still be at the top of their minds.

This post was republished with permission from the author. The original was published in the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau ‘Between the Furrows’ Newsletter, February 2013.

By Rich Casale, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

It’s no secret; if your soil erodes then you lose productive top soil. Not too many growers realize that soil erosion can result in the use of more water when it’s time to irrigate, but erosion can have damaging affects to both soil texture and structure. In turn, the resulting damage can affect the soil’s ability to make water available for crop use. Chronic and/or unattended soil erosion will have even a more disastrous effect on soil productivity, requiring even more irrigation water and fertilizer inputs, not to mention continued expenses related to erosion damage repair. In addition, resulting sedimentation can degrade and reduce both the quality and quantity of surface irrigation water supplies. Winter is normally the time of year when soil erosion rears its ugly head but erosion can also occur other times of the year from irrigation runoff, land activities that change drainage patterns or furrow alignments, irrigation pipeline breaks, out-of- season rainfall events, etc. Erosion prevention on the farm should be considered a year round practice not just something you do in preparation for winter rains.

Keep in mind: you could be losing as much as 15 tons of soil per acre and not even know it, because you can’t see that amount in thin sheets of soil being lost over a field with your naked eye. Don’t wait until you have an erosion problem, contact NRCS for assistance at 475-1967.

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