Yesterday I was called out on a job in the Dayton
area of Rockingham County, Virginia.
This area is intensively farmed with livestock and crops. I was totally amazed at two things: the
amount of bare ground and the number of fields farmed up and down the slope of
the land. These two aspects of farming
are disastrous because both lead to accelerated soil erosion. Both are easy to fix.
Winter cover crops should be completely covering the soil at
this time of year. Going into winter
with nothing on the fields to intercept the energy of falling rain drops will
expose the most productive ton of soil to displacement, movement down slope and
into nearby streams.
Many crop fields were worked by driving tillage and planting
equipment up and down the slope. The
path of least resistance for moving water in these fields will be these tracks
which will become rills and eventually gullies.
All tillage and all planting should be done as close as possible going
perpendicular to the flow of water. This
is called contour farming. This practice
alone will reduce the runoff of water by fifty percent.
These two conservation practices: Planting cover crops in a
timely manner and planting on the contour, may take a little more time but the
benefits are huge: protecting the most productive ton of soil and increasing
the amount of stored soil moisture.