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Title: Sugarcane residue management effects in reducing soil erosion from quarter-drains in southern Louisiana

item Kornecki, Ted
item Fouss, James

Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2011
Publication Date: 7/29/2011
Citation: Kornecki, T.S., Fouss, J.L. 2011. Sugarcane residue management effects in reducing soil erosion from quarter-drains in southern Louisiana. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 27(4):597-603.

Interpretive Summary: For many years, soil surface cover using crop residue, has been known to reduce rainfall energy responsible for some of the soil erosion. The primary benefits of crop residues are reduction of soil erosion, improvement of soil properties and health, and reduction of soil surface sealing effects. Crop residue is increasingly being used as a major tool to reduce the loss of one of our most valuable natural resources, topsoil. Conservation practices encourage the use of crop residue as a protective blanket from rainfall and to enrich soil structure by increased organic matter content. Our results were based on six storm events that occurred between April and July 2002 with a total rainfall of 368 mm. Residue left on the field after harvest significantly reduced erosion depth in quarter-drains by 60% compared with residue burned. The highest erosion for both treatments occurred at transition areas between the quarter-drains and the main field ditches, however, the erosion depth for quarter-drains with residue burned was 6 times higher than in quarter-drains where residue was left. Based on these results, sugarcane residue was a simple and effective method in reducing soil erosion during the 4-month period from March to the beginning of July, 2002. Future research with sugarcane post-harvest residue should include measurements of soil properties and runoff water from sugarcane fields to identify improvements in soil structure and to quantify reduced amount of surface runoff water.

Technical Abstract: Residue cover is one of the most effective and least expensive methods for reducing soil erosion. Residue protects the soil surface from raindrop impact, thus reducing soil particle detachment. An experiment was conducted following the 2001 sugarcane harvest season in Southern Louisiana to determine the effect of two different post-harvest residue management methods on soil erosion from quarter-drains. Assigned treatments were: (1) residue left on a field and swept into furrows, and (2) residue removed by burning following the harvest. Based on six (6) storm events with cumulative rainfall of 368 mm, residue left on site significantly reduced erosion depth from quarter-drains by 60% as compared to quarter-drains where residue was removed by burning. For soil with an average bulk density of 1.5 Mg/m3, the average reduction in soil loss from these storms with residue left in the field was 0.89 kg/m of the quarter-drain. Maximum erosion occurred at transition points between quarter-drains and the main field ditch. For research plots where residue was removed by burning, a gradual deterioration of the side walls of the quarter-drain occurred including the transition with the field ditch, where maximum erosion depths in excess of 18 mm were recorded. Based on these results, sugarcane residue left in the field after harvest was effective in reducing soil erosion from quarter-drains during a 4-month period of spring and early summer of the 2002 growing season.