Sediment loss in response to scheduled pasture ploughing and reseeding: The importance of soil moisture content in controlling risk

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Pulley, S. and Collins, A. L. 2020. Sediment loss in response to scheduled pasture ploughing and reseeding: The importance of soil moisture content in controlling risk. Soil & Tillage Research. 204, p. 104746.

AuthorsPulley, S. and Collins, A. L.

Soil water regimes have been shown to have important implications for the erosion risks associated with land management decisions. Despite this, there remains a paucity of information on soil moisture thresholds for farm management operations including the periodic ploughing and reseeding of improved pasture used for ruminant farming. Against this background, this study analysed sediment loss monitored on a heavily instrumented farm platform, in SW England, over four phases of ploughing and reseeding. Precipitation and sediment yields were highly variable between the ten different field scale catchments on the experimental platform after reseeds. Post-plough period rainfall ranged between 461–1121 mm and corresponding sediment yields between 0.20 - 3.13 t. ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹. The post-plough and reseeding periods accounted for a very high proportion (mean 28.8 %) of monitored sediment fluxes over the study (2012–2019) despite only covering an average of 10.9 % of the 2002 days of flume monitoring. Post-plough sediment yields were highest (2.57 t. ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ and 3.13 t. ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹) when two catchments were ploughed in autumn months and soils were saturated. The yields for the same catchments after summer ploughing were far lower (0.72 t. ha⁻¹yr⁻¹and 0.73 t. ha⁻¹yr⁻¹). Thresholds of 35–38 % soil moisture were identified at which ploughing represented a highly elevated erosion risk. Whilst pinpointing thresholds for the clay loam soils with slowly permeable drainage in the study area, the results serve to illustrate the wider need for robust scientific data on soil moisture status to help guide the timing of farm management operations for improving production, to help reduce negative environmental consequences.

KeywordsSoil erosion ; Pasture; Ploughing; Soil moisture; Ruminant farming
Year of Publication2020
JournalSoil & Tillage Research
Journal citation204, p. 104746
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 3 (WP3) - Sustainable intensification - optimisation at multiple scales
The North Wyke Farm Platform- National Capability [2017-22]
Publisher's version
Copyright license
CC BY 4.0
Accepted author manuscript
Copyright license
CC BY 4.0
Supplemental file
Copyright license
CC BY 4.0
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
OnlineJul 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted06 Jul 2020
PublisherElsevier Science Bv

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