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Erosion Assessment Goes Geospatial

While managing soil microbes might be the newest frontier to improving soil health, one thing has not changed: you cannot improve soil you no longer have! Minimizing erosion is the first step in a soil health management plan.
The old adage says: “you can only manage what you measure”, but actually measuring soil erosion is very complicated, even for experts in this field. There’s no need to measure Cesium isotopes along that slope in your field. What needs to be managed is the risk of erosion.
It used to be that in order to estimate the erosion risk of a field you had to download and learn to use specific software to perform the calculations required for the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE2). The calculations require specific inputs like slope length and steepness that must be measured in the field or derived from topographic data collected on the farm. These are all barriers to actually doing an erosion risk assessment, and even then, the result is a single number. Is this good enough? We have moved to much more refined ways of determining fertilizer requirements, why can’t we do the same for erosion risk? Now we can.
A water risk erosion tool has been added to the Agricultural Information Atlas (i.e. AgMaps). The tool runs RUSLE2 in the background to calculate the amount of soil lost to water erosion at a sub-field resolution. The results are an inherent water erosion potential map that calculates the risk based on soil and landscape factors, and an annual water erosion estimate map that takes the current crop and tillage practices into account (the ‘C’ factor from RUSLE 2). This article will explain how to run the tool.
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