Soil Erosion Satellite-Based Estimation in Cropland for Soil Conservation

Gallo, Bruna Cristina; Magalhães, Paulo Sérgio Graziano; Demattê, José A.M.; Cervi, Walter Rossi; Carvalho, João Luís Nunes; Barbosa, Leandro Carneiro; Bellinaso, Henrique; César de Mello, Danilo; Veloso, Gustavo Vieira; Alves, Marcelo Rodrigo; Fernandes-Filho, Elpídio Inácio; Francelino, Márcio Rocha; Schaefer, Carlos Ernesto Gonçalves Reynaud


Intensive cropland expansion for an increasing population has driven soil degradation worldwide. Modeling how agroecosystems respond to variations in soil attributes, relief and crop management dynamics can guide soil conservation. This research presents a new approach to evaluate soil loss by water erosion in cropland using the RUSLE model and Synthetic Soil Image (spectroscopy technique), which uses time series remotely sensed environmental, agricultural and anthropic variables, in the southeast region of São Paulo State, Brazil. The availability of the open-access satellite images of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and Landsat satellite images provided ten years of rainfall data and 35 years of exposed soil surface. The bare soil surface and agricultural land use were extracted, and the multi-temporal rainfall erosivity was assessed. We predict soil maps’ attributes (texture and organic matter) through innovative soil spectroscopy techniques to assess the soil erodibility and soil loss tolerance. The erosivity, erodibility, and topography obtained by the Earth observations were adopted to estimate soil erosion in four scenarios of sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) residue coverage (0%, 50%, 75%, and 100%) in five years of the sugarcane cycle: the first year of sugarcane harvest and four subsequent harvesting years from 2013 to 2017. Soil loss tolerance means 4.3 Mg ha−1 exceeds the minimum rate in 40% of the region, resulting in a total soil loss of ~6 million Mg yr−1 under total coverage management (7 Mg ha−1). Our findings suggest that sugarcane straw production has not been sufficient to protect the soil loss against water erosion. Thus, straw removal is unfeasible unless alternative conservation practices are adopted, such as minimum soil tillage, contour lines, terracing and other techniques that favor increases in organic matter content and soil flocculating cations. This research also identifies a spatiotemporal erosion-prone area that requests an immediately sustainable land development guide to restore and rehabilitate the vulnerable ecosystem service. The high-resolution spatially distribution method provided can identify soil degradation-prone areas and the cropland expansion frequency. This information may guide farms and the policymakers for a better request of conservation practices according to site-specific management variation.