Soil Conservation became an important concern in the early 1930’s as wind erosion problems became more severe. Many people remember this as the “dirty thirties.” Through years of research, procedures and practices were recognized that we still use today. Such as re-establishing grass cover, extending crop rotations, winter cover crops, residue management, shelterbelts, conservation tillage and grassed waterways.
In 1935, “The Control of Soil Drifting Act” was passed. This confirmed the responsibility of the “occupier” of the land to control & prevent soil drifting. In 1962, this act was replaced by the “Soil Conservation Act”. With a few revisions throughout the years the Soil Conservation Act is still what is used today to help prevent erosion and soil degradation.
The Soil Conservation Act’s main purpose is to provide a framework for farmers to encourage soil conservation practices. These practices are to preserve Alberta’s agricultural land base and to ensure long-term productivity of the farming sector.
The main areas of concern under the Soil Conservation Act are wind erosion and water erosion. The risk of soil erosion through wind and water is increased when proper procedures and practices are not established and followed. Other forms of soil degradation that are destructive to soil quality are organic matter loss and salinization.
Click here to view the Soil Conservation Act:
Click here to view Soil Erosion Indicator and Information:
Erosion is a natural process that often is enhanced by farming activities that leave the soil surface bare and susceptible to the forces of wind. Erosion moves topsoil, reduces both the level of soil organic matter and available crop nutrients, and contributes to the breakdown of soil structure.
The risk of soil erosion by wind is extensive in Alberta where the climate is typically dry and large expanses of open field are unprotected.
Factors and Farming Practices that tend to lead to wind erosion are:
- Sparse or absent vegetative cover
- Large fields
- Soil texture (sandy soils)
- High winds
Control options for reducing wind erosion are:
- Maintain a vegetative cover
- Reduce cultivated fallow
- Reduce or eliminate tillage
- Shelterbelts (farmstead & field shelterbelts)
- Avoid overgrazing
Click here for more information on wind erosion.
Erosion is a natural process that often is enhanced by farming activities that leave the soil surface bare and susceptible to the forces of water. Erosion moves topsoil, reduces both the level of soil organic matter and available crop nutrients, and contributes to the breakdown of soil structure.
Although water erosion is a problem across the province it has received much less attention than wind erosion as it not as visually impressive. Overtime, physical changes are apparent in the forms of eroded gullies and flooding.
Factors and farming practices that tend to lead to water erosion are:
- Cultivation of water courses
- Cultivation of steep slopes
- Summer fallowing fields when it not necessary for conservation of soil moisture
- Cultivation of fields slopes up and down, instead of with the contour.
- Burying crop residue
Control options for reducing water erosion are:
- Conservation tillage techniques
- Reduced summer fallow
- Proper crop rotation
- Grass covered water courses
Click here for more information on water erosion:
The municipality has been empowered by the Minister to administer the Soil Conservation Act. The municipality has the following powers and responsibilities under the Soil Conservation Act:
- Power and responsibility to appoint at least one soil conservation officer for the municipality.
- Power to pass bylaws dealing with burning of stubble and removal of topsoil.
- Power to develop permits that prescribe the terms and conditions required for stubble burning and topsoil removal.
- Responsibility to set municipal policy by which the inspectors/officers should approach problems and identify problem areas.
- Responsibility to provide proper identification to the soil conservation officer.
- Responsibility to make provision to hear appeals by aggrieved landowners.
The role of the landowner and/or occupant is to protect the productivity of land through the prevention or minimization of soil erosion. As a landowner and/or occupant has the following powers and responsibilities under the Soil Conservation Act:
- Power to appeal a notice.
- Right to refuse entry to buildings or structures at an unreasonable hour.
- Responsibility to prevent or minimize soil loss or deterioration from soil erosion.
- Responsibility to comply with notices given.
- Responsibility to pay for expenses incurred for carrying out remedial measures.
- Responsibility to allow inspectors to carry out their duties.
- Responsibility to hold valid permits and comply with the terms and conditions under which a permit is issued.
Click here to view the Soil Conservation Act:
Shelterbelts help reduce the speed of wind which in result reduces wind erosion. There are both farmstead shelterbelts and field shelterbelts.
Field shelterbelts should not be considered as an alternative to good residue management, but as a complement. Field shelterbelts are a part of a conservation management system that will help protect the quality of the soils.
Due to the closure of the Indian Head shelterbelt center, shelterbelt trees are no longer available for free to producers. However, the Ag Service Department will help producers plan, organize, order and plant shelterbelts. This program will work in cooperation with the Eastern Irrigation District's Partners in Habitat Development Program (PHD). Both programs will receive the above services free of charge. Only trees that are ordered through the Shelterbelt program via the nursery chosen by the Agricultural Services Department and PHD will be included in this program. No other trees will be planted, ordered, or supplied by the Ag Service Department. Only applicants that are planting a shelterbelt that fits within the PHD guidelines or used to limit soil erosion, and/or protect livestock will be eligible to receive help planting. Community projects will be evaluated and approved on a case-by-case basis by the Director of Ag Services. Producers will be responsible for the cost of the tree seedlings and shipping.
For more information on the Eastern Irrigation District, Shelterbelt program visit www.eid.ca or call 403-362-1400.
For more information on farmstead shelterbelts and field shelterbelts check out the links below: