Combating ephemeral gully erosion


Ephemeral gullies are those channels that appear in fields after a rain storm and  disappear when tilled, but show up again after another big rain.

This type of erosion is like the company embezzler—quietly robbing from the account with no one noticing until a large amount comes up missing.

A new Iowa State University (ISU) project will focus on research and education to help control ephemeral gully erosion. The USDA National Integrate Water Quality Program project is led by ISU agronomy professor Richard Cruse, ILF faculty adviser and Director of the Iowa Water Center.

“Current soil erosion models can only estimate sheet and rill erosion, which occur in small channels that can only be seen up close, where water flows and moves off the surface in very thin layers. Unlike gully erosion, those types of erosion cause soil movement and not necessarily removal from fields.”

Read about this project here: Iowa State project aims to reduce major cause of of soil erosion on Iowa farm fields

Ephemeral gully erosion doesn’t only occur in spring and summer, winter can also generate these soil stealers. A recent article from Penn State University Extension explains how to combat this as soil freezes and thaws.

“The problem is increased if the subsoil is frozen but the surface starts to thaw because the water cannot infiltrate. The surface soil turns into a liquid and soon after water starts to puddle, runoff is the inevitable result.”

The article offers tips on rill erosion prevention: Rain and thawing snow on frozen soil can lead to rill erosion

Sjoerd Duiker, associate professor of soil management and applied soil physics at Penn State says that “soil erosion is still our number on enemy in agriculture.” We need to work on keeping it in place as best we can.

–Carol Brown

One thought on “Combating ephemeral gully erosion

  1. Jerry Crew says:

    Sheet, rill, gulley or ephemeral–ALL can be eliminated! How? If you answered anything other than no-till, you are not only wrong but you need to retake erosion course # 101

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