Wind erosion has long been recognised as a major land degradation issue in Western Australia.
It involves the detachment, transportation and re-deposition of soil by wind.
Over the past few months, parts of our region have experienced particularly severe wind erosion events. Minor wind erosion occurs almost every year in WA agricultural regions, and substantial, serious wind erosion events occur in years like this, when strong winds, poor groundcover and loose soil coincide over large areas.
Wind erosion is exacerbated by a number of factors, including our mediterranean climate, the prevalence of annual crops and pastures, strong prefrontal winds (which if you live anywhere in the Geraldton zone you will particularly understand this!) and extensive sandy-surfaced soils. These risk factors can be further intensified by poor groundcover, overgrazing, vehicle movements and land cultivation.
Autumn is usually the time of highest risk in the NAR. A combination of dry groundcover, strong winds and land cultivation tend to expose and detach the soil leading to significant wind erosion.
Practical options for preventing and reducing wind erosion on your property include;
- Maintaining a protective groundcover and a stable soil surface, particularly on the most susceptible soils – aiming for 50% groundcover.
- At harvest time if the season permits, ensure you leave enough anchored stubble to provide protection for the following season.
- Decrease grazing on stubbles and keep traffic to a minimum.
- Utilising controlled traffic farming for minimum tillage systems.
- Although any form of cultivation will increase the risk of wind erosion, soil inversion methods specifically can result in greater impacts during wind events. Utilising weather forecasts and seasonal expectations to manage when these methods are employed is particularly important.
- Protect areas of heavy livestock traffic
- Plant windbreaks or shelterbelts around highly susceptible areas. (https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/small-landholders-western-australia/establishing-effective-windbreaks-swan-coastal-plain – a useful planning resource)
- Where suitable, plant perennial pasture species, which have a stable base and rapid growth on early rains, to provide better protection from wind erosion (https://www.nacc.com.au/project/trees-and-shrubs-for-the-midlands-and-northern-wheatbelt/ – this tree and shrub guide could be handy!).
If you would support to tackle your wind erosion concerns or learn more about how to minimise the risk to your property, please contact our Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitators:
(P) 0448 986 879
(P) 0447 361 335.