The problem of soil erosion in Europe
Ploughing is one of the earliest methods farmers used to control weeds. The perception behind ploughing is that by turning the soil, it brings fresh nutrients to the surface while incorporating weeds and remains from the previous crop, providing a clean seedbed for the next crop.
Approximately 20% of Europe’s total land area is estimated to be affected by water and wind erosion. Mechanical weed control by ploughing causes additional topsoil losses
(© iStockphoto.com/ Darko Dozet).
However, generally speaking, conventional tillage also means that 15-20 cm of topsoil is disrupted, and bare soil is exposed to the erosive action of water and wind. Deep ploughing acts negatively on biodiversity in that organic matter is diluted and the degradation processes of top soils are accelerated. In addition, it can lead to the compaction of subsoil under the weight of machinery during cultivation. Unlike topsoil, subsoil is not loosened during ploughing. Compaction of subsoil affects the water-holding capacity of the soil and further accelerates erosion by increasing the risk of water run-off.
Approximately 20% of Europe’s total land area is estimated to be affected by water and wind erosion. Natural soil formation is a very slow process and any loss of topsoil of more than 1 tonne per hectare is considered to be irreversible within a recovery time-span of 50-100 years 3.
Last update: 03 June 2013