Soil Erosion



Fertile topsoil loss through wind and water erosion is one of the greatest challenges in Washington agriculture. Management practices that reduce soil disturbance, keep the soil covered for more of the year, or build more resilient soil structure through organic matter inputs can help to reduce soil erosion.

Soil erosion is a gradual process by which the topsoil is worn away or displaced from its original location. It is essentially a unbalance of soil formation and soil loss. Soil is formed very slowly, but human activities have increased the rate at which soil is eroded. Along with the soil, nutrients are also displaced in the process, sometimes into critical water sources.

view clouded in dust.
Soil erosion by wind strips nutrients away from their place in the soil and causes health and safety hazards for the public. Photo credit: Andy McGuire

Managing soil erosion

  • Planting cover crops - Keeps the soil covered and roots hold soil in place
  • Reducing tillage – Soil structure that is destroyed by tillage helps hold soil particles in place
  • Leaving residue on the soil surface – Residue on the soil surface can intercept rainfall particles that would displace soil particles



University of Minnesota Extension. “Reduce Wind Erosion for Long-Term Profitability.” 

Michigan State University Extension. “Eroding Away Your Economic and Environmental Progress.” 

Resources About Soil Erosion