Stop Ephemeral Gully Erosion with Conservation Systems
Got a Gully?
Runoff water flowing from uneven landscapes tends to concentrate in natural, depressional channels. These channels, called ephemeral gullies, can be reshaped and farmed across, but continued, concentrated flow takes away the soil. Ephemeral gullies sometimes are described as silent erosion because they can be easily smoothed over, hidden and planted to crops. Discing an ephemeral gully leaves nutrient rich topsoil vulnerable to erosion. Fixing ephemeral gullies through conservation practices protects productivity and water quality and allows farmers with highly erodible land to continue receiving USDA farm program benefits.
The 1985 Farm Bill required Conservation Compliance for all USDA program participants if they farm highly erodible land (HEL). ANY tillage not accounted for in your conservation plan may put you out of compliance. Should you be concerned? If you have highly erodible land, and you have small gullies forming in your fields you should check with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Discing or smoothing the gullies will not fix the problem. And you risk losing your USDA farm program benefits. When in doubt, visit your local NRCS office before performing any tillage that is not part of your conservation plan on HEL land.
Fix it, Don’t Disc It.
There are several natural resources conservation practices and management options available to help farmers voluntarily fix ephemeral gullies in their fields. Additional practices to consider include: conservation crop rotation, contour buffer strips, contour farming, strip cropping, critical area planting, and water and sediment control basin.
Ephemeral Gully Initiative
Iowa NRCS made adjustments to our HEL compliance procedures in FY 2017 to more fully address the control of ephemeral gully erosion. This special initiative is directed toward providing financial assistance to producers needing to address ephemeral gullies on cropland, primarily with vegetated practices, grassed waterways or structural practices. Funding provided through this initiative is available to all EQIP eligible producers. However, priority will be given to applicants with tracts that were compliance reviewed in 2017 and 2018 and received a variance to address ephemeral gully erosion. Contact your local NRCS office for help deciding which options are best for you and your farm, and to learn about financial assistance options.