Earth surface processes and landforms vol:31 issue:8 pages:1003-1016
The study of soil loss due to crop harvesting (SLCH) started only recently in soil erosion research. It describes the mass of adhering soil, soil clods and rock fragments that is lost from arable land during the harvesting of crops such as potato, sugar beet, sweet potato and cassava. Some research on mechanized agriculture in Europe revealed that soil loss rates due to crop harvesting can be comparable to water and tillage erosion rates. However, little is known about soil losses caused by manually harvested crops in other parts of the world. This study investigated SLCH for potato and sugar beet plots on farmer's fields spread over four regions in northeast China where harvesting is carried out by band. Soil losses for sugar beet were on average 1(.)0 Mg/ha/harvest, ranging from 0(.)2 to 1(.)9 Mg/ha/harvest, and SLCH for potato ranged from 0(.)2 to 3(.)0 Mg/ha/harvest with an average of 1(.)2 Mg/ha/harvest. Soil moisture content, average root mass and plant density could explain 45 to 67 per cent of the variability of SLCH for sugar beet. The effect of soil texture was the opposite to findings of other studies, which could be attributed to the strong correlations among the variables and to the effect of the harvesting operator. SLCH variability for potatoes could best be explained by soil texture. SLCH for sugar beet was much lower than European SLCH values for this crop, which can be explained by differences in harvesting technique and agronomic practices. SLCH for potato was comparable to soil losses measured in Belgium, especially if clods are removed on the harvesting machine. However, clay contents of the soils were larger in this study and soil losses were lower than in Belgium for comparable clay contents. Although SLCH is not the dominant soil erosion process in NE China, it contributes to overall soil loss rates, which have already exceeded their critical tolerance limits in this region. Copyright (c) 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.