It is well understood that soil erosion has serious impacts on water quality because of the pollutants carried in runoff from the fields into water courses. Sustainable practices to limit soil erosion are available, “but it is the economical and socio-political factors that lead to erosion which need to be tackled if sustainable practices to limit soil erosion are to be successful”, says Bob Evans of the Department of Geography at Anglia Ruskin University.
Writing in CAB Reviews, Evans says “In my experience, if farmers accept there is a problem such as runoff and erosion, they are more than competent to solve it, providing they will still be making a living. Very often farmers are not aware of the impacts on others of what they do. In some developed countries if farmers do not take heed of these warnings, litigation may ensue, to their disadvantage but persuasion rather than coercion seems a better way. Indeed, cooperation and participation are essential if progress on limiting soil erosion is to be made."
Many practices are environmentally sustainable, especially those used by small indigenous farmers, but few are sustainable in financial and socio-political terms. Although conservation tillage techniques are being vigorously promoted they may be more sustainable when carried out on small farms where no herbicide inputs are needed.
“It is likely a mix of market and government subsidy approaches is needed, tailored to the needs of individual countries and especially aimed to help the agricultural sector in the developing world”, argues Evans. “Concentrating on improving the infrastructure and other socio-political factors, especially education, particularly for women, may greatly help in encouraging the uptake of sustainable practices to limit soil erosion.”
The review “Sustainable practices to limit soil erosion: a review and discussion” by R. Evans is published in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources (2006) 1, 30.