Skip to main content

Long term productivity benefits of soil conservation

Walker, D.J. and Young, D.L. and Fosbert, M.A. and Busacca, A.J. and Saxton, K.E. and Carter, D.L. and Frazier, B.E. (1987) Long term productivity benefits of soil conservation. In: STEEP--Conservation Concepts and Accomplishments. Washington State University Publication, Pullman, WA. pp. 9-39.

[img] PDF

Download (1MB)


Many studies have documented that erosion reduces crop yields (Langdale and
Shrader, 1982; Follet and Stewart, 1985; Am. Soc. Ag. Engr., 1985). Few of
those studies have incorporated the effect on yield of changes in technology
(Young, 1984) and only one, to our knowledge, has considered the effect of
yield-enhancing agricultural technical progress on erosion damage assessment
(Walker and Young, 1986). Lost yield potential is the major on-site effect
of erosion. Off-site effects in the form of sedimentation and impaired water
quality are also important but are not discussed here. A conservation practice
that reduces erosion and yield damage produces a benefit from conservation.
This potential benefit, in the form of yield damage avoided, is the
objective of soil conservation research and conservation adoption. Understanding
the cost of erosion damage and the benefits from erosion control are
essential for developing long range policies for conserving soil resources.
The tri-state STEEP multidisciplinary research program is dedicated to finding
solutions to the erosion problems in the Pacific Northwest. STEEP
research results concerning the long term productivity impacts of erosion are
the focus of this paper.
This paper describes the different types of erosion damage and presents concepts
for correctly measuring that damage or the potential benefits from erosion
control. STEEP research is presented to show the effect of erosion on
the soil resource and on crop productivity. The potential for restoring productivity
on eroded soils is discussed. The paper also describes how to separate
the effects of technology and yield damage and presents empirical estimates
of conservation benefits.
A first classification of erosion damage distinguishes between current damage
and long-term damage. Current erosion damage is due primarily to seedbed erosion,
reduced tillering, and plant suffocation by sediment, all of which
reduce stand density. Current damage is yield loss this year due to erosion
this year. These erosional effects do not carry over into subsequent years.
Long-term erosion damage occurs when erosion this year reduces yield in
future years. This yield loss is due to the loss of nutrient-rich topsoil,
to degradation of soil structure and to reduction of plant-available water-holding capacity of eroded soil. Long-term damage is of great concern because
its effects are enduring, even irreversible in large part. Estimates of the
long-term productivity benefits of soil conservation are formulated in terms
of long-term erosion damage avoided by conservation.

Item Type: Technical Bulletin
NWISRL Publication Number: 0631
Subjects: Soil
Mass Import - autoclassified (may be erroneous)
Depositing User: Dan Stieneke
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2010 21:58
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2016 18:12
Item ID: 1202