Soil conservation

June 12, 2012 at 7:21 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Measuring water runoff from experimental plots. The results will help design effective, low-cost structures for soil conservation and water harvesting

Olive trees are a major component of Mediterranean farming systems; but inappropriate land management practices have accelerated soil erosion in many olive production areas, especially those located on sloping land. A new study, which began this season, combines field trials with modeling to examine the benefits of two kinds of interventions: low-cost semicircular stone bunds surrounding individual trees, to harvest runoff water and reduce erosion; and alternative weed control methods to replace the common practice of tillage.

The experimental field is located on a 10-15% slope, and contains 114 ten-year old olive trees. The trial includes six ‘treatments’: trees with and without stone bunds, and three weeding methods (herbicide, a motorized weed cutter, and the common practice of tillage using a cultivator). Researchers used ‘Gerlach troughs’ to measure water runoff and soil loss. Experiments on soil loss and erosion management require several seasons to allow definitive conclusions; but preliminary results show clearly that stone bunds provide substantial benefits for little investment; and that the two new weeding methods cause considerably less soil disturbance and erosion, and are less expensive, than the common practice of tillage.

For more information contact Dr Feras Ziadat, soil conservation and land management specialist, email

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