Soil Conservation Methods

Several Soil Conservation Methods In Practice Today

There are probably more soil conservation methods in use in the world today than many people realize. Many of these soil conservation efforts have been practiced for hundreds of years, others are more recent. In many if not most cases, these efforts have been based upon soil management practices which, while at the time seeming to be beneficial, in the long run were proven to not to be the case, and in some instances led to problems and disasters of epic proportions. One can get a lesson in how good intentions can turn terribly wrong by reading The Worst Hard Time, the story behind the Dust Bowl disaster in early  20th century America.

Terracing - While most soil conservation efforts are practiced on a rather large scale, there are things the individual can do to keep our planet healthier in this respect. Those who live on sloping ground and have a garden know full well the advantages of terracing. Bare soil on a slope, especially soil that has recently been tilled, tends not to stay in place in the event of a heavy rainstorm, and a smooth slope soon assumes a pattern of  trenches, gulches, and miniature canyons through the soil has been washed downhill. Terracing creates level areas of ground, from which soil will not wash away.

Contour Plowing - Somewhat similar to terracing, if in principle only, is the practice of contour plowing. This can be observed in fields that are either on slopes or located in gently rolling terrain. The wheat fields in the Washington State's Palouse country give a classic example of contour plowing, where the marks of the plow take on sometimes beautiful patterns. Water can run along the furrows created by the plow, but seldom is allowed to run very far downhill, and as a result the soil stays in place. Contour plowing is also beneficial in dry windy weather as it helps keep the soil from blowing away, which is always more likely when the crop planted has yet to take root and provide cover.

Crop Rotation - Soil conservation methods aren't limited to those practices designed to keep soil from washing away or blowing away. A number of soil conservation methods are aimed principally of keeping the soil that is there healthy, and as a consequence, usable. Crop rotation has been one conservation method hat has been practiced for many years as farmers came to realize that planting the same crop in the same soil year after year often resulted in diminishing returns. The problem is some pathogens tend to build up in the soil when the same crop is planted year after year, plus the natural nutrients in the soil have a tendency to become unbalanced, the overall result being soil that becomes less healthy as time goes by.

Acids And Salinity - Slightly more complicated can be management of the pH of the soil, which can change either when crop rotation is not practiced, other than indigenous crops are introduced, or simply through pollution, acid rain being one example. The salinity of the soil is often affected by the type of crop grown, and if it becomes too great, most types of vegetation will not grow well or will die. A lack of vegetation is often a primary cause of loss of topsoil.

Soil conservation practices aren't strictly limited to farmland of course. The way we manage our forests can affect not only the health of the forests themselves, but the health of soil in surrounding areas, including damage done by excessive runoff when logging has not been done properly, or the residue from mining enterprises is allowed to enter streams, affecting soil downstream.

Some soil conservation methods are quite scientific in nature, but most are plain common sense, which often means they have been learned the hard way.