Field-based determination of controls on runoff and fine sediment generation from lowland grazing livestock fields

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Pulley, S. and Collins, A. L. 2019. Field-based determination of controls on runoff and fine sediment generation from lowland grazing livestock fields. Journal of Environmental Management. 249 (1 November), p. 109365.

AuthorsPulley, S. and Collins, A. L.

Compared with arable land, there is a paucity of field-based measurements of erosion rates and controls for lowland temperate grassland supporting ruminant agriculture. Despite this evidence gap, reducing diffuse fine sediment pollution from intensively farmed grassland has been recognised as essential for improving compliance with water quality targets. Improved information on erosion rates and controls within intensively managed lowland grazing livestock systems are prerequisites for informing best management practices for soil and water resource conservation.

Accordingly, this study assembled such information using the North Wyke farm platform in south west England where flow, suspended sediment concentration, rainfall and soil moisture are monitored quasi-continuously in 15 hydrologically-isolated (1.54–11.12 ha) catchments. This region of the UK is representative of temperate lowland ruminant grazing landscapes with semi permeable soil drainage.

Catchment area was the major control on both water and sediment flux. When normalised to catchment area, sediment yields were controlled by the erodibility of the catchment's soils. Ploughing for re-seeding of grass swards was the major factor that affected this. Whilst total rainfall had a small effect on sediment yields, slope and the damage of soils by livestock had no significant effects. This finding may be due to the overriding effects of ploughing and re-seeding of some fields during the study period.

Detachment by impacting raindrops mobilised sediment particles across the entire field with diffuse saturation-excess overland flow responsible for their transport. The majority of erosion occurred during the rising limbs of storm events when there is an abundance of easily detached soil particles. Given that erosion and sediment transport are driven mechanistically by processes affecting the entire field areas, a reduction in sediment yield through the implementation of highly spatially-targeted in-field management such as that for feeder ring use, troughs, poached tracks or gateways would likely be very challenging. Instead, stocking density and grazing regime management, as well as carefully planned ploughing and re-seeding will be more beneficial for erosion control.

KeywordsErosion; Grassland; Farming; Lowland grazing; Rain splash; Saturation-excess runoff
Year of Publication2019
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Journal citation249 (1 November), p. 109365
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeThe North Wyke Farm Platform [2012-2017]
S2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 3 (WP3) - Sustainable intensification - optimisation at multiple scales
Publisher's version
Copyright license
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online22 Aug 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted03 Aug 2019
PublisherAcademic Press Ltd- Elsevier Science Ltd

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