Relationship Among Crop Systems, Soil Cover, and Water Erosion on a Typic Hapludox
Several soil conservation practices are used to reduce water erosion and ensure sustainable agriculture. An effective crop management practice is intercropping, in which two or more crops with different architectures and vegetative cycles are grown simultaneously in the same area. We hypothesized that intercropping of corn and jack-bean increases soil cover and reduce soil erosion by water in comparison to monocropping. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of different crop systems on soil cover and on soil erosion by water. Soil and water losses from a Typic Hapludox were measured under the following systems: corn cultivation (CO), jack-bean cultivation (JB), intercropping of corn and jack-bean (IC), and bare soil (BS), as a reference for maximum erosion rates. For each crop system, erosion plots with dimensions of 12 × 4 m were set up in the field on a 0.12 m m−1 slope gradient. The experiment was carried out under natural rainfall, over three crop seasons (November to March) from 2011 to 2014. The soil cover index of the systems was monitored during crop growth, and rainfall erosivity for the crop seasons was calculated according to the EI30 index to interpret soil and water losses. A set of linear mixed models was fitted to relate soil losses to rainfall erosivity, crop systems, and soil cover. The average rainfall erosivity in the study area was 6,132 MJ mm ha−1 h−1 per crop season. The results indicate that water losses are directly related to erosivity and are less influenced by soil cover and cultivation systems than the soil losses. A linear maximum value of the soil cover index was achieved 70 days after sowing. Intercropping exhibited greater soil cover than single crops. Total soil losses from the three seasons display the trend: BS > CO > JB > IC. The best fitted model of the linear mixed models indicates that soil loss responses are strongly correlated with rainfall erosivity and soil cover, which nullified the influence of the crop systems in the model.