Data on sediment yield from 26 small cultivated catchments (10-10 000 ha) in central Belgium were collected, based on sedimentation rates in small flood retention ponds. Area specific sediment yield varies from 0.4 to 20.6 t ha(-1) year(-1) for catchments ranging from 7 to 4873 ha. Various catchment properties were analysed in order to understand this large variation in sediment yield. Catchment area alone explains 64% of the observed variance in area specific sediment yield. Although no other parameter could explain more, it is concluded that catchment area is not a valid parameter to link with sediment yield. Overall catchment geomorphology, e.g. presented by the hypsometric integral, is much more important in controlling sediment yield. The lack of data, however, made this not very clear. A multiple regression model including three morphological catchment properties is a valuable toot to predict total sediment yield (t year(-1)) from catchments in central Belgium. This model has an efficiency of 0.81. Furthermore, it was concluded that the within-catchment spatial distribution of parameters, for instance slope steepness, is very important but difficult to obtain one single representative value. The use of spatially distributed erosion and sediment delivery models is therefore necessary. Accurate sediment yield data, like the one presented in this study, however, are needed to validate these models. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.