Preventing Soil Erosion

Dust_Storm_TexasHow to Help Prevent Soil Erosion This Spring
By Rural Conservationist Scott Gall

“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”  Franklin Roosevelt wrote those words in a letter to all State Governors in support of the act that created Soil & Water Conservation Districts.  That was in 1937 and the nation had just passed a series of laws in response to the devastation caused by the Dust Bowl.

Eighty years later we’ve have come a long way in our understanding of the strength and fragility native soils.  Yet erosion will always be a concern.

Soil erosion is the detachment and movement of soil particle most often caused by water and wind, gravity and even ice.  Since it may take 200 years to form one inch of soil, erosion occurring on your land is usually bad thing.  While soil erosion is of most concern on farms, steep hillsides or along a stream; erosion around a house can compromise foundations, clog drains, undermine garden plants and depending on where the soil goes – lead to liability issues.

In most instances, soil erosion occurs when the surface is not adequately covered, which allows wind, rain, and flowing water to dislodge the soil and carry it away. Some of the best ways to stabilize soil and slopes is by planting grass, shrubs and trees.  Their root systems, and the fibrous mycorrhiza fungus that attach to it, literally hold the soil in place.  The roots can also create holes, known as pores, which allow water to seep into the ground so that it doesn’t pond on the surface and wash soil away. That plants themselves also pull water up out of the soil, through the process of transpiration, prevents soil in steep areas from getting too saturated and heavy.

The roots of plants also pump organic matter deep into the soil. Organic matter, formed from the breakdown and composting of living material, is one of the most important parts of soil. It is literally the glue that holds soil together.  Organic matter also helps water to seep deep into the soil while providing nutrients for crops, trees and even ornamental plants in the garden.  While mulches, composts and other organic amendments can add organic matter to soil, plants are the most efficient way to get it deep into the soil and help prevent soil erosion.

For more information on soil, soil erosion, or other conservation practices, contact West Multnomah SWCD or attend Soil School