Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Series 4


E E. Rowley


Wind erosion, Erosion control, Soil conservation

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Wind erosion and sand blasting of crops and pastures have been frequent hazards to many south coast sandplain farms ever since land clearing started there. In 1980 and 1981 the problems were particularly severe, resulting in widespread crop and pasture losses. Pastures are at risk as the amount of available dry feed declines in late summer, autumn and early winter, but cultivated paddocks with emerging crops usually suffer the most serious economic and physical effects. Wind-caused problems have serious implications for agriculture on these sandplain areas. Apart from the serious annual production losses, four or five consecutive years of serious wind erosion could devastate many sandplain farms beyond economic recovery. However, management to avoid wind erosion is feasible, as has been demonstrated in the well-publicised dust bowl areas in North America in the 1930s. Whereas the dust bowl problem occurred on finer soils, where loss of fertility over a medium to long period was the major problem, Western Australia's south coast problems apply mostly to sandy soils, where damage from moving sand is of more immediate concern, but in the long term the loss of fertility could add a serious dimension to the problem. Part of the solution to the North American problem was to improve soil moisture retention, using contour cultivation, retaining stubbles and have developing rotations. The solutions best suited to Western Australia's south coast are complex and involve the total management of the farm.