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Effects of rows arrangement, soil management, and rainfall characteristics on water and soil losses in Italian sloping vineyards

Bagagiolo, Giorgia, Biddoccu, Marcella, Rabino, Danilo, Cavallo, Eugenio
Environmental research 2018 v.166 pp. 690-704
Citrus, conservation practices, grasses, olives, orchards, protective effect, rain, runoff, seasonal variation, soil conservation, soil erosion, storms, summer, temperate zones, tillage, topographic slope, vineyards, Italy
Erosional processes are highly affected by seasonal climatic fluctuations and soil management practices. Controlled grass cover is one of the most used soil conservation practices adopted in temperate climates, even if the protective effect of grass cover may decrease according to seasonal pattern. This technique is effective and, thus, widely adopted in the inter-rows of orchards such as olives, citrus or vineyards. This study reports the erosive events recorded in two different rain-fed hillslope vineyards with different rows orientation located in the Monferrato region, NW Italy. The study is addressed at compare the effects of different inter-row managements and rainfall characteristics on runoff and soil loss in hillslope vineyards (average slope from 15% to 35%). Rainfall, runoff and erosion variables were monitored in hydraulically bounded vineyard plots, where the inter-rows were managed with tillage and grass cover. Seventy-two erosive events were recorded in the period 1992–1996 in two vineyard plots with rows along the contour lines while 86 erosive events were recorded in two plots with rows up-and-down the slope from 2000 to 2014 (158 erosive events and four plots in total). Events were classified according to rainfall characteristics as “long-lasting”, “intense” and “normal”. In plots with rows along the contour lines, “intense” events were responsible for the highest mean soil loss in tilled plots (0.7 Mg ha−1) with very high erosion rates (12.3 Mg ha−1) observed during a single storm. In plots with rows up-and-down the slope the highest erosion rates, 21.2 and 3.4 Mg ha−1, were recorded during fall “long-lasting” events in the tilled and grass cover plots respectively. The grass cover proved to be effective in decreasing runoff and soil losses during most of the events (at least 68% and 61% of the occurrences, respectively) reducing soil losses especially during summer storms when most of the “intense” events occured. Furthermore, the results show the fundamental role of contour-slope row orientation in reducing runoff and soil losses, disregarding the inter-rows soil management that is adopted.