Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane Demo Farms

Soil Loss

Soil is most vulnerable to erosion when residue is not kept on the surface. Without adequate residue, the energy created by a raindrop falling on the ground creates a strong splash effect that disperses soil particles. Once soil particles are displaced from a soil aggregate, they can quickly move by water and be carried downslope as sediment, potentially reaching surface water. Sediment carries nutrients to surface water and it also creates unfavorable conditions for aquatic life. Sediment may settle out during transport, creating mucky stream and lake bottoms, and degrading fish habitat.

As rain events continue to increase in intensity, soil and nutrient loss will continue to increase, furthering the need for innovative crop management practices. Soil is one of four things that we can't live without: soil, water, air, and sunlight. It takes 500 to 1,000 years to build one inch of topsoil. Protecting soil and keeping it on the land will ensure that Dane County's farmland will be productive for future generations.

View our Soil Health webpage to learn how you can help your soil become more resilient and less prone to erosion.

  • Splash erosion caused by raindrop impact
    • Keep the soil covered with residue and/or living cover
  • Sheet erosion caused by shallow flow
    • Reduce tillage or move to no-till or strip till practices
    • Keep the soil covered with a living cover
    • Adjust crop management to increase infiltration in the field
  • Rill erosion caused by concentrated flow in channels
    • Protect concentrated flow channels with grassed waterways
    • Adjust crop management to increase infiltration in the field
  • Gully erosion caused by deep ravines
    • Address rill erosion before it becomes a gully erosion problem
    • Contact Dane County Land Conservation Division for technical assistance
  • Streambank erosion caused by stream flow
    • Stay a minimum of 5 feet from the streambank with tillage equipment
    • Install a vegetative buffer along the stream
    • Provide controlled stream access to cattle where appropriate
  • Wind erosion caused by none other than, wind
    • Keep the soil covered with a living cover
    • Reduce tillage or move to no-till or strip till practices

We all rely on clean water and productive soils to sustain our lives.  We are fortunate in Dane County to have a wealth of very productive soils and we want to keep it that way. The impact of soil erosion on soil productivity is largely determined by subsoil properties because they effect root growth and water availability. As a large portion of the County was impacted by glaciers, the subsoil varies in quality across the landscape. It is essential that the topsoil is protected and kept on farmland and out of surface waters. Soil not only sustains life today but will sustain life for generations to come as long as it is well cared for and kept on the farm.