Runoff and soil loss as affected by land use change and plough direction in poor vegetation cover pastures

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Former M.Sc. student in Soil Physics and Conservation, Soil Science Department, University of Zanjan

2 associate Professor of Soil Physics and Conservation, Soil Science Department, University of Zanjan


The effects of land use change and ploughing method on soil erosion in pastures have been widely known, nevertheless, there is not sufficient information regarding these human activities in semi-arid regions, particularly in Iran. Therefore, this study was conducted to investigate the effect of land use change as well as ploughing method on surface runoff, soil loss and crop yield in poorly vegetated pastures, in a semi-arid region of NW Iran, in 2014. Four scantly covered pastures of 12.6, 15.37, 17 and 19.4% slope steepness as were considered in the area with six plots (3m×10m) established in each, early autumn 2013. The plots consisted of pasture vegetation cover, rain fed wheat cultivation on the up to down slope, as well as rain fed wheat cultivation on the contours. A total of 24 plots were investigated using a completely randomized block design of at two replicates. Runoff and soil loss were recorded at the plots under natural rainfall events during on 8 month growth period. Soil loss was also measured at the plot outlets after each natural rainfall event causing runoff the study period. Significant differences were found between the cultivated plots and pasture plots in runoff and soil loss (p<0.01). Runoff and soil loss in the cultivated lands appeared to be 13 and 60 times bigger than the lands under pasture the  two variables  for  the (up to down slope) cultivated plots were about 5.5 and 35 times greater than the contour cultivated plots. There existed a significant relationship between the slope and runoff generation (R²= 0.978, p < 0.05), and soil loss (R² = 0.998, p < 0.01) in the study slopes. The study revealed that the change of pastures to arable lands and ploughing up to down slope in semi-arid regions leads to accelerate on of runoff and soil loss, particularly in the lands of high slope steepness.


Main Subjects

Ali, A., Streibig, J. C., Christensen, S. and Andreasen, C. 2011. Estimation of weeds leaf cover using image analysis and its relationship with fresh biomass yield of maize under field conditions. In Proceedings 2011 International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies in Agriculture, Food and Environment, pp. 41-49.
Angers, D.A., Samson, N. and Legere, A. (1993). Early changes in the water stable aggregation induced by rotation, e.g. tillage in the soil under barley production. Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 73, 51-59.
Angers, D. A. and Mehuys, G. R. (1993). Aggregate stability to water. In Cartner, M. R. (ed.) Soil Sampling and Methods of Analysis. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton. pp. 651–657.
Bakker, M.M., Govers, G. and Rounsevell, M.D.A. (2004). The crop productivity-erosion relationship: an analysis based on experimental work. Catena, 57, 55–76.
Basic, F., Kisic, I., Butorac, A., Nestroy, O. and Mesic, M. 2001. Runoff and soil loss under different tillage methods on Stagnic Luvisols in central Croatia. Soil and Tillage Research, 62(3), 145-151.
Basic, F., Kisic, I., Mesic, M., Nestroy, O. and Butorac, A. (2004). Tillage and crop management effects on soil erosion in Central Croatia. Soil and Tillage Research, 78, 197–206.
Bellanger, B., Huon, S., Velasquez, F., Vallès, V., Girardin, C. and Mariotti, A. (2004). Monitoring soil organic carbon erosion with δ 13 C and δ 15 N on experimental field plots in the Venezuelan Andes. Catena, 58(2), 125-150.
Bhatt, R. and Khera, K. L. 2006. Effect of tillage and mode of straw mulch application on soil erosion in the submontaneous tract of Punjab, India. Soil and Tillage Research, 88(1), 107-115.
Dalla Rosa, J., Cooper, M., Darboux, F. and Medeiros, J. C. (2012). Soil roughness evolution in different tillage systems under simulated rainfall using a semivariogram-based index. Soil and Tillage Research, 124, 226-232.
Ekwu, E. I. and Harrilal, A. (2010). Effect of soil type, peat, slope, compaction effort and their interactions on infiltration, runoff and raindrop erosion of some Trinidadian soils. Biosystems Engineering, 105(1), 112-118.
Fox, D. M., Bryan, R. B. and Price A. G. (1997). The influence of slope angle on final infiltration rate for interrill conditions. Geoderma, 80, 181-194.
Fu, B.J., Meng, Q.H. and Yang, L.Z. (2001). Effects of land use on soil erosion and nutrient loss in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area, China. Soil Use and Management, 17, 288-291.
Garcia-Ruiz, J.M. (2010). The effects of land uses on soil erosion in Spain: a review. Catena, 81, 1-11.
Gajri, P. R., Arora, V. K. and Prihar, S. S. (2002). Tillage for sustainable cropping. Food Products Press. 200 pp.
Gee, G. W. and Bauder, J. W. (1986). Particle size analysis. In: Klute, (Ed.) Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 1, 2nd ed. America Society of Agronomy, Madison, WI, 383-411.
Girmay, G., Singh, B. R., Nyssen, J. and Borrosen, T. (2009). Runoff and sediment-associated nutrient losses under different land uses in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. Journal of Hydrology, 376(1), 70-80.
Hartanto, H., Prabhu, R., Widayat, A. S. and Asdak, C. (2003). Factors affecting runoff and soil erosion: plot-level soil loss monitoring for assessing sustainability of forest management. Forest Ecology and Management, 180(1), 361-374.
Huang, G. B., Chai, Q., Feng, F. X. and Yu, A. Z. 2012. Effects of Different Tillage Systems on Soil Properties, Root Growth, Grain Yield, and Water Use Efficiency of Winter Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in Arid Northwest China. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 11(8), 1286-1296.
Jones, J. B. (2001). Laboratory guide for conducting soil tests and plant analysis. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 27-160.
Jose´, A. G., Teodorico, A. S., Juan, V. G. and Elı´as, F. 2009. Soil management effects on runoff, erosion and soil properties in an olive grove of Southern Spain. Soil and Tillage Research, 102, 5–13.
Kinnell, P. I. A. (2000). The effect of slope length on sediment concentrations associated with side-slope erosion. Soil Science Society America Journal, 64, 1004–1008.
Kosmas, C., Gerontidis, S., Marathianou, M., Detsisa, B., Zafiriou, T., Van Muysen, W., Govers, G., Quine, T. A. and Vanoost, K. (2001). The effects of tillage displaced soil on soil properties and wheat biomass. Soil and Tillage Research, 58, 31–44.
Koulouri, M. and Giourga, C. (2007). Land abandonment and slope gradient as key factors of soil erosion in Mediterranean terraced lands. Catena, 69(3), 274-281.
Morgan, R. P. C. (2005). Soil erosion and conservation, Third edition, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1-3,200-210. ISBN: 1-4051-1781-8.
Ndiaye, B., Esteves, M., Vandervaere, J. P., Lapetite, J. M. and Vauclin, M. (2005). Effect of rainfall and tillage direction on the evolution of surface crusts, soil hydraulic properties and runoff generation for a sandy loam soil. Journal of Hydrology, 307(1), 294-311.
Nelson, D. W. and Sommers, L. E. (1982). Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In Page, A. L. (ed.) Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 2. Chemical and Microbiological Properties. 2nd Ed. American Society of Agronomy, Inc. and Soil Science Society of America, Inc., Madison. pp. 539–579.
Nikkami, D., Ardakani, A. J. and Movahed, F. B. 2008. Tillage management on sustainable rainfed agricultural resources. Journal of Applied Sciences, 8(18), 3255-3260.
Nunes, A. N., De Almeida, A. C. and Coelho, C. O. (2011). Impacts of land use and cover type on runoff and soil erosion in a marginal area of Portugal. Applied Geography, 31(2), 687-699.
Ojima, D., and Chuluun, T., (2002). Land Use change and carbon cycle in arid and semi-arid land use east and central asia, science in china (series C), 45, 48-54.
Page, M. C. Sparks, D. L. Noll, M. R. and Hendricks, G. J. (1987). Kinetics and mechanisms of potassium release from sandy middle Atlantic Coastal plain soils. Soil Science Society America Journal, 51, 1460-1465.
Peng, T. and Wang, S. (2012). Effects of land use, land cover and rainfall regimes on the surface runoff and soil loss on karst slopes in southwest China. Catena, 90, 53–62.
Prasuhn, V. 2012. On-farm effects of tillage and crops on soil erosion measured over 10 years in Switzerland. Soil and Tillage Research, 104, 137-146.
Rafahi, H.Gh. (2006). Water erosion and conservation, 5th Edition, University of Tehran press, 671 p. (In Farsi)
Rasmussen, K.J., (1999). Impact of ploughless soil tillage on yield and soil quality: a Scandinavian review. Soil and Tillage Resource. 53, 3–14.
Sadeghi, S.H.R. and Singh, J.K. (2005). Development of a Synthetic Sediment Graph using Hydrological Data. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology, 7, 69-77.
Schiettecatte, W., Cornelis, W. M., Acosta, M. L., Leal, Z., Lauwers, N., Almoza, Y., Alonso, G.R., Diaz, J., Ruiz, M. and Gabriels, D. (2008). Influence of landuse on soil erosion risk in the Cuyaguateje watershed (Cuba). Catena, 74(1), 1-12.
Shabani, H. and Delavar, M.A. (2015). Assessment of macronutriens spatial variation in the University of Zanjan, Iran. Journal of Research and Construction. (In Farsi) (In Press)
Shinjo, H., Hirata, M., Konga, N. and Kosak, T. (2002). Evaluation of water erosion risk and recommendation for sustainable land use northeastern Syria. 17th World Congress of Soil Science, Thailand, Paper No. 1175.
Su, Z., Zhang, J., Wu, W., Cai, D., Jiang, G., Huan, J., Gao, J., Hartmann, R. and Gabriels, D. (2007). Effects of conservation tillage practices on winter wheat water use efficiency and crop yield on the Loess Plateau, China. Journal of Agricultural Water Management, 87(3), 307-314.
Suhua, F., Baoyuan, L., Heping, L. and Li, X. (2011). The effect of slope on interrill erosion at short slopes. Catena, 84, 29–34.
Terranova, O., Antronico, R., Coscarelli, R. and laquinta, P. (2009). Soil erosion risk scenarios in the Mediterranean environment using RUSLE and GIS: an application model for Calabria (Southern Italy). Geomorphology, 112, 228-254.
Thomas, G. W. (1982). Exchangeable cations, 159-165 pp. In: A. L. page, R. H. Miller and D. R. Keeney (eds.) Methods of soil analysis. Part 2. Chemical and microbiological properties. 2nd ed. Agron Monogr. 9. ASA and SSSA, Madison, WI.
Vaezi, A.R., Bahrami H.A., Sadeghi S.H.R. and mahdian, M.H. (2008). Evaluating Erosivity Indices of the USLE, MUSLE, RUSLE and USLE-M Models in Soils of a Semi-Arid Region in Northwest of Iran. Iranian Journal of Watershed Management Science and Engineering. 2 (4), 25-37. (In Farsi)
Vaezi, A.R., Bahrami, H.A., Sadeghi, S.H.R. and Mahdian, M.H. (2008). Spatial variations of runoff in a port of calcareous soils of semi-arid region in northwest of Iran. Journal Agricultural Science and Natural Resource, 15(5), 213-225. (In Farsi)
Wainwright, J. and Thornes, J.B. (2004). Environmental Issues in the Mediterranean. Routledge, pp, 200.
Ye, Y.Q., Chen, G.J. and Fan, H. (2003). Impacts of the “Grain for Green” project on rural communities in the Upper Min River Basin, Sichuan, China. Mountain Research and Development, 23, 345-352.
Zanjan Water Organization. (2011). Study reports of Zanjan plain. Zanjan Water Organization, Press, pp. 27-54. (In Farsi)
Zhang, X., Cao, W., Guo, Q. and Wu, S. (2010). Effects of landuse change on surface runoff and sediment yield at different watershed scales on the Loess Plateau. International Journal of Sediment Research, 25(3), 283-293.
Zhang, G. H., Wang, L. L., Tang, K. M., Luo, R. T. and Zhang, X. C. (2011). Effects of sediment size on transport capacity of overland flow on steep slopes. Journal of Hydrological Science. 56(7), 1289-1299.
Zhang, H., El Kateb, H., Zhang, P. and Mosandl, R. (2013). Soil erosion and surface runoff on different vegetation covers and slope gradients: A field experiment in Southern Shaanxi Province, China. Catena. 105, 1–10.
Zhao, X., Huang, J., Gao, X., Wu, P. and Wang, J. (2014). Runoff features of pasture and crop slopes at different rainfall intensities, antecedent moisture contents and gradients on the Chinese Loess Plateau: A solution of rainfall simulation experiments. Catena, 119, 90-96.