Monitoring soil erosion by direct measurement is technically impractical.. Instead, the condition of the soil surface in agricultural lands is assessed for relative protection from the risk of wind and water erosion over time.
A rapid, roadside field survey method was developed to collect key data related to soil erosion protection across 45 land zones in the agricultural areas of South Australia. The department performs field surveys along 14 transects through the zones considered to have significant inherent potential for soil erosion. This covers approximately 8.5 million hectares of the 10.2 million hectares of cleared farming land in South Australia.
Around 5,500 paddocks are surveyed from the roadside each year in March, May, at peak sowing time (usually June) and October. This time sequence is used to generate an annual profile of erosion protection, as the amount of ground cover and protection varies according to the seasonal growth cycles of annual crops and pastures. The process involves a simple visual assessment of key groundcover, surface looseness and soil and landscape parameters at each site.
Full details of the survey method can be found in the Field Survey Monitoring Manual.
Data from the erosion protection surveys is used to monitor progress towards target 70 (sustainable land management) of South Australia’s Strategic Plan, which aims to achieve a 25% increase in the protection of agricultural cropping land from soil erosion and a 25% improvement in the condition of pastoral land.
Summarised results of the surveys are published in erosion protection seasonal reports in April and November each year for the following NRM regions.