The Effects of Agricultural Conservation Practices on the Small Water Cycle: From the Farm- to the Management-Scale
Reinforcing the small water cycle is considered to be a holistic approach to both water resource and landscape management. In an agricultural landscape, this can be accomplished by incorporating agricultural conservation practices; their incorporation can reduce surface runoff, increase infiltration, and increase the water holding capacity of a soil. Some typical agricultural conservation practices include: conservation tillage, contour farming, residue incorporation, and reducing field sizes; these efforts aim to keep both water and soil in the landscape. The incorporation of such practices has been extensively studied over the last 40 years. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used to model two basins in the Czech Republic (one at the farm-scale and a second at the management-scale) to determine the effects of agriculture conservation practice adoption at each scale. We found that at the farm-scale, contour farming was the most effective practice at reinforcing the small water cycle, followed by residue incorporation. At the management-scale, we found that the widespread incorporation of agricultural conservation practices significantly reinforced the small water cycle, but the relative scale and spatial distribution of their incorporation were not reflected in the SWAT scenario analysis. Individual farmers should be incentivized to adopt agricultural conservation practices, as these practices can have great effects at the farm-scale. At the management-scale, the spatial distribution of agricultural conservation practice adoption was not significant in this study, implying that managers should incentivize any adoption of such practices and that the small water cycle would be reinforced regardless.
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