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Summary

Soil tillage is usually considered as a process having only an indirect influence on soil erosion. This paper describes the results of field experiments carried out with a mouldboard and a chisel plough showing that an important net downslope soil movement can be associated with soil tillage. Available experimental evidence suggests that the soil redistribution by tillage can be described by a diffusion-type equation, which allows the intensity of the process to be characterized by a single number, which may be called the diffusion constant. The experimentally determined values of the diffusion constant vary between 100 and 400 kg m−1 a−1. This implies that erosion and sedimentation rates associated with tillage may be more important than those associated with water erosion on much of the hilly arable land in western Europe. A comparison of recent hillslope evolution with model simulation results corroborates this conclusion. Therefore, tillage should be considered as a soil degradation process per se, rather than a process which makes the soil more sensitive to erosion.