The impact of erosion on soil productivity-An experimental design applied in Sao Paulo State, Brazil

Anna Tengberg, Michael Stocking, Sonia Carmela Falci Dechen

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Soil erosion is the principal threat to agricultural sustainability, affecting both the characteristics of the in situ soil and its productive potential. However, soils vary in their resilience and there are very few empirical data upon which to appreciate the degree and type of impact on the soil caused by erosion. This paper describes an experiment designed to generate such data based on soil loss and runoff plots, and it reports on nearly nine years of experience with the design at the Instituto Agronômico, Campinas, Brazil on a Latosol (Oxisol). After seven years of erosion induced by four levels of artificial cover, the effective rainfall on the most eroded soil was 20 percent less than on the control full cover. Crop yields were also found to be significantly affected: in 1995 by nearly 700 kg/ha and in 1996 by over 1000 kg/ha - a 50% decline in yield, amounting to a loss of 4 kg/ha of maize per tonne of cumulative soil loss. Losses of nutrients (organic C, P, K, Ca and Mg) in the runoff and eroded soil were also significant with far higher levels of loss associated with the eroded sediment. Changes in the in situ soil were less clear, but a test of trends showed that the decreases in organic matter and increases in acidity could unambiguously be attributed to soil erosion. Average enrichment ratios of the eroded sediment were 1.3 for organic C, 2.6 for P, 0.7 for K, 1.3 for Ca and 1.2 for Mg. Erosion has also affected the maize quality - mainly N, Ca and B nutrient content. Through these various measures, we conclude that seven years of induced erosion has had a marked effect on soil productivity, and for the first time we are now in a position to begin calculating the financial impact of the erosion process on future yields and farmer livelihoods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-107
Number of pages13
JournalGeografiska Annaler Series A: Physical Geography
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 1997

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