Conservation

Wind Erosion

Wind erosion is caused by wind picking up loose particles that batter the ground as they fly by, causing additional particles to become loose and fly away. Wind erosion damaged an estimated 900,000 hectares (2 million acres) of agricultural soils in Alberta during the 1980s. Strong and sustained winds along with dry, bare soils contributed to serious soil loss.

Many individuals have devoted countless hours to improving the management of prairie soils. Numerous improvements in farm machinery, crop varieties, fertilizers, herbicides and other crop inputs have helped farmers reduce wind erosion.

To control wind erosion:

  • maintain a vegetative cover, either growing plants or crop residues,
  • reduce cultivated fallow,
  • reduce or eliminate tillage,
  • if you do till, choose a tillage implement that buries less residue and reduce tillage speed,
  • plant and maintain field shelterbelts.
  • avoid overgrazing

Water Erosion

Snowmelt and rainfall are the driving forces for water erosion on the prairies. Bare soils are very vulnerable to erosion. Steep slopes and long, uninterrupted slopes are especially prone to water erosion.

Modifying tillage practices to keep crop residue on the surface can greatly reduce erosion. A crop residue cover also conserves soil moisture and improves soil tilth and fertility for better crop production. Costs for conservation tillage systems are usually similar to or lower than costs for conventional tillage systems over the long term. Preventing soil erosion helps to ensure the sustainability of the farm operation.

Grassed waterways, drop structures, lined channels or terraces are used to control more severe water erosion problems. Technical advice may be needed to implement some of these special measures.