If you're in an area of the country that is suffering from severe drought, such as many parts of California or Texas, leave your field in "roughed-up" condition to prevent soil loss from wind erosion.
That's the recommendatioin of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Large portions of Texas and California are currently classified by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska are experiencing severe or extreme drought.
The potential for soil from wind erosion could be as great as 250 tons per acre per year. Loss of irrigation water could result in vast amounts of farmland being fallowed, resulting in many acres of bare soil.
Abandoned, bare fields are subject to severe wind erosion says Rita Bickel, an NRCS agronomist in Davis, Calif. “Fields continually subjected to erosion may result in land that is incapable of returning to cropping or vegetative systems at a later date,” she says.
Bickel says not only could vast amounts of top soil be lost, but air quality will be affected as well. One example is blowing soil that impairs vision on roads and highways.
She advises farmers to take steps now to create surface roughing, such as building furrows or ridges. These will absorb and deflect part of the wind energy and trap drifting soil particles.
“Vegetation, or vegetative residue, is the best protection for prevention of erosion from wind or rain when fields are left fallow,” she says. “After the last crop is harvested, it is best to save as much of the remaining crop residue, stubble, or ridges as possible. Even weeds can be sprayed in place and left as cover. Soil will be somewhat protected if there is at least 30 percent cover on the surface.”
Tillage with an implement, such as a lister, running perpendicular to wind direction, will form ridges and clods that will provide some protection for soil, she says. This is most successful with soil that has some texture—sandy soils won’t hold the shape of clods and furrows as well as soils that contain at least some clay.
Farmers also can prevent soil loss by compacting unpaved farm roads; avoiding plowing noxious weeds until adequate moisture is present to allow stable clods to form; establishing permanent vegetation on cropland being converted to other uses; and stabilizing equipment lots, corrals and ditch banks not protected by windbreaks or cover vegetation.