Types of Soil Erosion

The decline in soil fertility, when the nutritional status declines and depth of the soil goes down due to erosion and misuse is called Soil degradation. Soil degradation is the main factor leading to the depleting soil resource base in India. The degree of soil degradation varies from place to place according to the topography, wind velocity and amount of the rainfall.

Soil Erosion

The soil forming processes and the erosion processes of running water and wind go on simultaneously. However, generally, there is a balance between these two processes. Sometimes, such a balance is disturbed by natural or man made factors, leading to a greater rate of removal of soil.

  • With increasing population, the pressure on the land increases and forests are removed for human settlement, for cultivation, for grazing animals and for various other needs.

The two most important agents of soil erosion are wind and water.  Wind erosion is significant in arid and semi-arid regions. Water erosion is significant in regions with heavy rainfall and steep slopes. Water erosion which is more serious and occurs extensively in different parts of India, takes place mainly in the form of sheet and gully erosion.

There are four kinds of soil erosion which can be arranged in an order of Splash erosion, Sheet erosion, Rill erosion, Gully erosion.

Splash Erosion

Raindrop splash erosion is a result of the energy of falling raindrops causing detachment of soil particles and and down-slope movement of sediment.  Maintenance of ground cover, such as in reduced- or no-till operations, use of cover crops, and enhancement of the stability of soil aggregates can be important in reducing detachment of soil particles.  The effect of manure application in enhancing soil aggregation also leads to reducing soil erodibility due to the raindrop splash effect.

Sheet Erosion

Sheet erosion, although less noticeable than other types of erosion, typically is the main erosive force.  Sheet erosion is less noticeable, as it does not leave obvious cuts in the soil surface as with gully erosion.  Sheet erosion is the removal of a relatively uniform, although thin, layer of soil from the land surface by unchanneled runoff, or sheet flow.

Sheet erosion takes place on level lands after a heavy shower and the soil removal is not easily noticeable. But it is harmful since it removes the finer and more fertile top soil.

Rill Erosion

Rill erosion is the process by which numerous small channels–less than three inches in depth–are formed.  This type of erosion results from concentration of overland water flow associated with sheet erosion. Rill erosion can be especially serious on recently cultivated land.  Rill erosion is best minimized by minimizing sheet flow, such as by maintaining crop residues and utilizing cover crops.  Physical barriers, such as terraces, and vegetative barriers can be effective in stopping or reducing rill erosion.

Gully Erosion

Gully erosion refers to the cutting of narrow channels called gullies. The gullies can be caused by small channels of approximately 3 to 12 inches deep.  Gullies may be one to several feet deep.  Gully erosion cuts deep and removes the surface soil as well as deeper soil that may still have substantial amounts of total nutrients but less compared to the surface soil.

Gully erosion needs to be prevented, as it is difficult to check once started.  Gully erosion is common on steep slopes. Gullies deepen with rainfall, cut the agricultural lands into small fragments and make them unfit for cultivation.

  • A region with a large number of deep gullies or ravines is called badland topography. Ravines are widespread, in the Chambal basin, which have been caused due to gully erosion. Apart from Chambal valley, the ravines are also found in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Some more observations

  • The Indian soils have been formed under varied geographical conditions and differ widely in their physical properties, chemical composition and fertility level. Most soils are old and mature.
  • Soils of the peninsular  plateau  are  much  older  then  the soils of the great northern plain.
  • Indian soils  are largely  deficient  in  nitrogen,  minerals  salts,  humus  and  other  organic materials.
  • Plains and valleys have thick layers of soils while hilly and plateau areas depict thin soil cover.
  • Some soils like alluvial and black soils are fertile while some other soils such as Laterite, desert and alkaline soils lack in fertility and do not yield good harvest.
  • Indian soils have been used for cultivation for hundreds of years and have lost much of their fertility. As such there is urgent need of giving scientific treatment to our soils.
  • Indian climate is characterized by seasonal rainfall and our soils need irrigation during the dry period.
  • Indian soils suffer from soil erosion and other allied problems.