Erodibility of agricultural soils on the Loess Plateau of China
Soil erodibility is thought of as the ease with which soil is detached by splash during rainfall or by surface flow. Soil erodibility is an important factor in determining the rate of soil loss. In the universal soil loss equation (USLE) and the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE), soil erodibility is represented by an erodibility factor (K). The K factor was defined as the mean rate of soil loss per unit rainfall erosivity index from unit runoff plots. Although high rate of soil loss from the Loess Plateau in China is well known and widely documented, it is remarkable that there is little systematic attempt to develop and validate an erodibility index for soils on the Loess Plateu for erosion prediction. Field experimental data from four sites on the Loess Plateau were analyzed to determine the K factor for USLE/RUSLE and to compare with another erodibility index based on soil loss and runoff commonly used for the region. The data set consists of event erosivity index, runoff, and soil loss for 17 runoff plots with slope ranging from 8.7 to 60.1%. Results indicate that the K factor for USLE/RULSE is more appropriate for agricultural soils on the Loess Plateau than the erodibility index developed locally. Values of the K factor for loessial soils range from 0.0096 to 0.0269 t h/(MJ mm). The spatial distribution of the K value in the study area follows a simple pattern showing high values in areas with low clay content. For the four sites investigated, the K factor was significantly related to the clay content, (K=0.031-0.0013 Cl, r2=0.75), where Cl is the clay content in percent. The measured values of the K factor are systematically lower than the nomograph-based estimates by a factor of 3.3-8.4. This implies that use of the nomograph method to estimate soil erodibility would considerably over-predict the rate of soil loss, and local relationship between soil property and the K factor is required for soil erosion prediction for the region.
Soil & Tillage Research