The immediate effectiveness of barley straw mulch in reducing soil erodibility and surface runoff generation in Mediterranean vineyards

Prosdocimi, Massimo; Jordán, Antonio; Tarolli, Paolo; Keesstra, Saskia; Novara, Agata; Cerdà, Artemi


Soil and water loss in agriculture is a major problem throughout the world, and especially in Mediterranean areas. Non-conservation agricultural practices have further aggravated the situation, especially in vineyards, which are affected by one of the highest rates of soil loss among cultivated lands. Therefore, it is necessary to find the right soil practices for more sustainable viticulture. In this regard, straw mulching has proven to be effective in other crop and fire affected soils, but, nonetheless, little research has been carried out in vineyards. This research tests the effect of barley straw mulching on soil erosion and surface runoff on vineyards in Eastern Spain where the soil and water losses are non-sustainable. An experiment was setup using rainfall simulation tests at 55 mm h-1 over 1 h on forty paired plots of 0.24 m2: twenty bare and twenty straw covered. Straw cover varied from 48 to 90% with a median value of 59% as a result of the application of 75 g of straw per m2. The use of straw mulch resulted in delayed ponding and runoff generation and, as a consequence, the median water loss decreased from 52.59 to 39.27% of the total rainfall. The straw cover reduced the median sediment concentration in runoff from 9.8 to 3.0 g L-1 and the median total sediment detached from 70.34 to 15.62 g per experiment. The median soil erosion rate decreased from 2.81 to 0.63 Mg ha-1 h-1 due to the straw mulch protection. Straw mulch is very effective in reducing soil erodibility and surface runoff, and this benefit was achieved immediately after the application of the straw.