Restoring eroded knolls has huge potential to boost yield


Landscape restoration: do you do it? You might want to think about doing it, because chances are you’re losing yield if you don’t, according to Marla Riekman, land management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

In the simplest terms, landscape restoration is moving soil back from where it came from. When growers use tillage year after year, organic matter and nutrients move with soil from the higher points dragging it down slope to lower spots.

“You start getting yield back immediately,” with landscape restoration she says. “We typically will see 30-50 per cent yield loss on those eroded knolls but by moving the soil back, we’ve done research near Treherne, Manitoba, and in that area we’ve seen a 133 per cent increase in wheat yield by restoring the knoll , 94 per cent in flax yield, and  64 per cent in pea yield in that study alone.”

She says the boost in yield comes right away, with no wait time. On the economic side, she says researchers have found the return on investment from this practise is faster than other land improvement practices.

Dr. David Lobb from the University of Manitoba led the research with a masters student. They found that, assuming it was custom done, with one person working an eight hour day, and depending on the landscape, it could take about five to 10 days to complete a project. As you can imagine, each field is different which creates a lot of variables. In their research it took four to five years to recover the initial investment.

“Sure it takes time, it might take you five to 10 days to move that soil but you’re going to get yield back immediately and that will pay for itself in probably less than four to five years,” Riekman says. “Especially when you’re doing it yourself because now the costs come back considerably.”

Although soil sampling technology can be used to find where eroded knolls are, she says it’s quite simple to see from an orthophoto. Eroded knolls are lighter in colour because the rich top soil no longer there.

Listen to RealAg’s Kelvin Heppner speak with Marla Riekman at Crops-a-Palooza this year, held in Portage, Man., about the potential of landscape restoration.

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