Main content area

Designing management options to reduce surface runoff and sediment yield with farmers: An experiment in south-western France

Furlan, Adriana, Poussin, Jean-Christophe, Mailhol, Jean-Claude, Le Bissonnais, Yves, Gumiere, Silvio J.
Journal of environmental management 2012 v.96 no.1 pp. 74-85
committees, cropping systems, crops, farmers, grasses, grasslands, models, rain, researchers, rivers, runoff, sediment yield, sediments, soil, spring, streams, surface water, water flow, water pollution, water quality, watersheds, France
To preserve the quality of surface water, official French regulations require farmers to keep a minimum acreage of grassland, especially bordering rivers. These agro-environmental measures do not account for the circulation of water within the catchment. This paper examines whether it is possible to design with the farmers agri-environmental measures at field and catchment scale to prevent soil erosion and surface water pollution. To support this participatory approach, the hydrology and erosion model STREAM was used for assessing the impact of a spring stormy event on surface runoff and sediment yield with various management scenarios. The study was carried out in collaboration with an agricultural committee in an area of south-western France where erosive runoff has a major impact on the quality of surface water. Two sites (A and B) were chosen with farmers to discuss ways of reducing total surface runoff and sediment yield at each site. The STREAM model was used to assess surface runoff and sediment yield under current cropping pattern at each site and to evaluate management scenarios including grass strips implementation or changes in cropping patterns within the catchment. The results of STREAM simulations were analysed jointly by farmers and researchers. Moreover, the farmers discussed each scenario in terms of its technical and economical feasibility. STREAM simulations showed that a 40 mm spring rainfall with current cropping patterns led to 3116 m³ total water runoff and 335 metric tons of sediment yield at site A, and 3249 m³ and 241 metric tons at site B. Grass strips implementation could reduce runoff for about 40% and sediment yield for about 50% at site A. At site B, grass strips could reduce runoff and sediment yield for more than 50%, but changes in cropping pattern could reduce it almost totally. The simulations led to three main results: (i) grass strips along rivers and ditches prevented soil sediments from entering the surface water but did not reduce soil losses, (ii) crop redistribution within the catchment was as efficient as planting grass strips, and (iii) efficient management of erosive runoff required coordination between all the farmers using the same watershed. This study shown that STREAM model was a useful support for farmers' discussions about how to manage runoff and sediment yield in their fields.