Soil erosion resulting from heavy rainfall events and wind leads to the loss of essential soil nutrients and soil carbon. Eroded soil and the loss of organic matter essential for supporting crop growth can damper corn and soybean production and reduce yield. Across the Corn Belt, an observed 20% increase in rainfall has led to a 40% increase in soil erosion. Record breaking flooding across the Midwest has further exacerbated erosion.

Identify Soil Erosion

Gully erosion is one of the most pronounced forms of erosion and its large grooves that form in the soil following heavy rainfall make it easy to identify. Less evident to the naked eye are signs of erosion that can be identified by looking for standing water in the field. Puddles of water seen after a rainstorm that are clouded with sediment suggest erosion is occurring whereas puddles of clear water are a sign of minimal erosion. Lighter colored soil seen overtime is also a sign of erosion but can be more difficult to identify.

In Iowa, the average rate of erosion has been five tons of soil per acre every year with intense weather events worsening rates, in some cases reaching 100 tons of soil per acre per year. The loss of natural vegetation can lead to greater rates of erosion from both wind and water. Using cover crops and no-till are the most effective methods for reducing and preventing erosion, increasing soil water holding capacity and boosting moisture content.

Take Action with Promising Solutions

Annual cover crops such as winter rye can be planted in the fall to preserve the soil over the winter and reduce erosion. PROTECTioN™ Cereal Rye, DRILLER™ Daikon Radish and FIXatioN Balansa Clover can be planted in the late summer and early fall to enrich organic matter and reduce soil loss. Perennial cover crops including legumes and fescue have established root systems that can prevent the loss of soil nutrients to rain or weather erosion. Legumes are also nitrogen fixing and can support crop growth.

In addition to integrating cover crops and no-till, terracing or planting grasses near waterways can prevent the formation of gullies. Buffer and filter strips can reduce the loss of soil nutrients and runoff of fertilizer and pesticides. Prairie strips can be implemented by planting perennial grasses to protect topsoil and prevent the loss of organic matter. Integrating a combination of these methods with cover cropping can combat soil erosion and offer great protection for your corn and soybean crops.