Measurement and modelling of the effects of initial soil conditions and slope gradient on soil translocation by tillage

W. Van Muysen, G. Govers, G. Bergkamp, M. Roxo, J. Poesen

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Tillage erosion studies have mainly focused on the effect of topography and cultivation practices on soil translocation during tillage. However, the possible effect of initial soil conditions on soil displacement and soil erosion during tillage have not been considered. This study aims at investigating the effect of the initial soil conditions on net soil displacement and the associated erosion rates by a given tillage operation of a stony loam soil. Tillage erosion experiments were carried out with a mouldboard plough on a freshly ploughed (pre-tilled) soil and a soil under grass fallow in the Alentejo region (Southern Portugal). The experimental results show that both the downslope displacement of soil material and the rate of increase of the downslope displacement with slope gradient are greater when the soil is initially in a loose condition. This was attributed to: (i) a greater tillage depth on the pre-tilled soil and (ii) a reduced internal cohesion of the pre-tilled soil, allowing clods to roll and/or slide down the plough furrow after being overturned by the mouldboard plough. An analysis of additional available data on soil translocation by mouldboard tillage showed that downslope displacement distances were only significantly related to the slope gradient when tillage is carried out in the downslope direction. When tillage is carried out in the upslope direction, the effect of slope gradient on upslope displacement distances was not significant. This has important implications for the estimation of the tillage transport coefficient, which is a measure for the intensity of tillage erosion, from experimental data. For our experiments, estimated values of the tillage transport coefficient were 70 and 254 kg m-1 per tillage operation for grass fallow and pre-tilled conditions, respectively, corresponding to local maximum erosion rates of ca. 8 and 35 Mg ha-1 per tillage operation and local maximum deposition rates of ca. 33 and 109 Mg ha-1 per tillage operation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-316
Number of pages14
JournalSoil and Tillage Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999


  • Erosion modelling
  • Soil condition
  • Soil erosion
  • Tillage erosion
  • Tillage translocation


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