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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Probabilities of Rainwater Retention and Erosion As Affected by Precipitation, Land Use, Cropping and Tillage Systems in Central Oklahoma

Authors
item Zhang, Xunchang
item Garbrecht, Jurgen

Submitted to: Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 1, 2002
Publication Date: October 1, 2002

Interpretive Summary: Crop and forage production without irrigation in semiarid regions such as in central Oklahoma is largely dependent on amounts and distribution of natural precipitation. However, wise selection of land use, cropping and tillage systems according to climate conditions can minimize production risks by maximizing rainwater use efficiency. The objective of this study is to evaluate the impact of precipitation variations, landuse, cropping and tillage systems on rainwater retention by soil and soil erosion in surface water runoff. Precipitation distribution varied greatly seasonally and between years. Cropping and tillage systems affected rainwater retention and soil erosion, although to a lesser extent than variation in rainfall. This research indicates that cropping systems can be customized to precipitation variations for more efficient use of precipitation if reliable weather forecasts are available. Adjusting cropping and tillage systems according to seasonal weather forecasts has potential to maximize agricultural productivity and sustainability by increasing rainwater use efficiency and decreasing soil erosion. Information derived in this paper can be used by scientists and extension professionals to evaluate production risks associated with insufficient rainwater retention and excessive soil erosion in central Oklahoma.

Technical Abstract: Dryland crop yields and forage production are limited by low and variable precipitation in the southern Great Plains. Large precipitation variation often involves great production risks, which can be reduced by better planning if probability distributions of precipitation, rainwater retention, and soil erosion under various production systems are known. The objective of this paper was to probabilistically quantify the impact o precipitation variations, land use, cropping and tillage systems on rainwater retention and soil erosion. Five 1.6-ha watersheds with 3 to 4% slopes, having a similar silt loam soil, were in native grass or winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) under different tillage systems. Daily runoff and soil erosion were measured with an H-flume and an automatic sediment sampler at the outlet of each watershed. Precipitation distributions varied greatly seasonally and between years, and rainwater retention distributions resembles those of precipitation. Cropping and tillage systems affected rainwater retention but to a much less degree as compared to precipitation variations. Available soil water storage, which was affected by ET, played a significant role in retaining rainwater. This indicates that cropping systems can be customized to precipitation variations for more efficient use of precipitation if reliable weather forecasts are available. Landuse, cropping and tillage systems had a much greater impact on soil erosion than on rainwater retention. Soil erosion risks were caused by a few large storms and were proportional to the level of tillage disturbance. Probability distributions derived in this paper provide information for evaluating production risks associated with insufficient rainwater retention and excessive soil erosion in the region.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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