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International team of experts investigates tillage erosion in a unique manipulation experiment

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Source: Emilien Aldana Jague & Kristof van Oost, U Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Soil degradation caused by erosion is one of the major environmental threats in agricultural land use. In contrast to soil erosion by water and wind, the scientific knowledge about erosion caused by tillage operations is still limited.

Therefore, leading international scientists were invited for a worldwide unique field experiment planned and organized by Prof. Fiener (University Augsburg) and Prof. Sommer (Institute of Soil Landscape Research, ZALF) from April 4th to April 7th 2016. The long-term effect of tillage erosion was simulated by multiple tillage operations (14 times harrow plus roller) on a 10 x 50 m arable slope located near Polßen, Uckermark. To shed light on processes of tillage erosion, the scientists used various tracers (magnetite, fluorescent grains, identification transponder, stone slabs) and high precision surface survey techniques, based on terrestrial laser scanning and aerial photographs recorded from unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The results of the study will help to improve existing tillage erosion models and will enhance the understanding of soil redistribution and its environmental feedback. Furthermore, the experiment enables a comparison of different methods to determine tillage erosion.

Tillage erosion
 Photo: Peter Fiener

Working groups of the Universities of Lancaster (UK: Prof. Quinton), Cordoba (ES: Prof. Gomez, Dr. Guzman), Louvain-la-Neuve (B: Prof. van Oost), Augsburg and the ZALF participated in the experiment. The study was supported by the ZALF research station in Dedelow. Dietrich von Wedel (Gut Polßen) kindly provided the field of the experimental area.

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