Land management and crop cover effect on soil erosion in the humid lowlands of Beles River Sub-Basin, North-Western Ethiopia


  • Getnet Asfawesen Molla Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR)
  • Gizaw Desta International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)



crop cover, sediment concentration, soil loss, tillage


Soil erosion is the most devastating environmental crisis in Ethiopia where the loss of soil from cultivated land is almost seven times the tolerable limit; specifically, Nitisol is very susceptible to erosion. To investigate the response of land management and cropping practices on sediment loss, a field experiment was conducted under natural environment on Nitisol of Pawi area. Nine treatments combining two tillage methods (zero and conventional), four crop covers (continuous maize, continuous soya bean, rotated maize, and maize soya bean intercrop), and continuous bare fallow as control were laid out in a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with three replications. The result showed that land management and crop cover significantly affect soil loss. Cultivation of crops without soil disturbance with full residue retention reduced soil loss by 6%, 36%, 36%, and 44% under soya bean, rotated maize, maize soya bean intercropping, and maize, respectively. Similarly, maize crop reduces soil loss by 34% under zero tillage management. Compared with conventionally managed maize crops, sediment concentration was also reduced by 14%, 17%, and 31%, maize with zero tillage, rotated maize with zero tillage, and maize soya bean intercropping with zero tillage, respectively. Except for zero-tilled maize soya bean intercropping and rotated maize, the seasonal soil loss was above the tolerable soil loss level of Ethiopia (2-10 t ha-1). This indicates there is a need for other management practices like physical and agronomic soil conservation methods to lower soil loss rates below the tolerable limit. Generally, zero tillage with greater crop cover is an appropriate approach to reduce soil loss by improving soil hydrological properties without negatively affecting grain yield. To understand and quantify the long-term impact of tillage and crop cover on soil health and productivity in Ethiopia long-term study is needed as this study was based on one-year data from four years of permanent plots.


Abera, B. 2003. Factor influencing the adoption of soil conservation practices in North West Ethiopia. discussion papers, No. 32, Institute of Rural Development University of Gottingen, Germany, 78pp.

Adimassu, Z, Mekonnen, K., Yirga, C. and Kessler, A. 2014. Effects of soil bunds on runoff, soil and nutrient losses, and crop yield in the Central Highlands of Ethiopia. Land Degradation & Development 25:554-564, doi:10.1002/ldr.2182.

Adimassu, Z., Alemu, G. and Tamene, L. 2019. Effects of tillage and crop residue management on runoff, soil loss and crop yield in the Humid Highlands of Ethiopia. Agricultural Systems 168:11-18, doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2018.10.007.

Araya, T., Cornelis, W.M., Nyssen, J., Govaerts, B., Getnet, F., Bauer, H., Amare, K., Raes, D., Haile, M. and Deckers, J. 2012. Medium-term effects of conservation agriculture-based cropping systems for sustainable soil and water management and crop productivity in the Ethiopian highlands. Field Crops Research 132:53-62, doi:10.1016/j.fcr.2011.12.009.

Araya, T., Cornelis, W., Nyssen, J., Govaerts, B., Bauer, H., Gebreegziabher, T., Oicha, T., Raes, D., Sayre, K., Haile, M. and Deckers, J. 2011. Effects of conservation agriculture on runoff, soil loss and crop yield under rainfed conditions in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. Soil Use and Management 27:404-414, doi:10.1111/j.1475-2743.2011.00347.x.

Asmamaw, D.K. 2014. Conservation tillage implementation under rainfed agriculture: Implication for soil fertility, green water management, soil loss and grain yield in the Ethiopian Highlands. International Journal of Agricultural Sciences 4(9):268-280.

Barnes, J. 2017. The future of the Nile: climate change, land use, infrastructure management, and treaty negotiations in a transboundary river basin. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change e449(8), doi:10.1002/wcc.449.

Berry, L. 2003. Land degradation in Ethiopia: Its extent and impact. Commissioned by the Global Mechanism with World Bank support 2-7.

Bewket, W. 2002. Land cover dynamics since the 1950s in Chemoga Watershed, Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia. Mountain Research and Development 22(3):263-269.

Bobe, B.W. 2004. Evaluation of soil erosion in the Harerge region of Ethiopia using soil loss models, rainfall simulation and field trials. The University of Pretoria.

Bogunovic, I., Pereira, P., Kisic, I., Sajko, K. and Sraka, M. 2018. Tillage management impacts on soil compaction, erosion and crop yield in Stagnosols (Croatia). Catena 160:376-384, doi:.

Borrelli, P., Robinson, D.A., Fleischer, L.R., Lugato, E., Ballabio, C., Alewell, C., Meusburger, K., Modugno, S., Schütt, B., Ferro, V., Bagarello, V., van Oost, K., Montanarella, L. and Panagos, P. 2017. An assessment of the global impact of 21st century land use change on soil erosion. Nature Communications 8(1), doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02142-7.

Dagnew, B. 2007. Assessment of cause and extent of land degradation Hashenge catchment, Southern Tigry [Addis Ababa University]. http://localhost/xmlui/handle/123456789/4932.

Dechen, S.C.F., Telles, T.S., de Guimarães, M.F. and de Maria, I.C. 2015. Losses and costs associated with water erosion according to soil cover rate. Soil Science and Plant Nutrition 74(2):224-233, doi:10.1590/1678-4499.0363.

Degefa, A., Quraishi, S. and Abegaz, F. 2016. Effects of different soil management practices under maize-legume production system on rainfall-runoff and soil loss relationships in Bako, West Oromia, Ethiopia. Journal of Resources Development and Management 26:27-34.

DeLaune, P.B. and Sij, J.W. 2012. Impact of tillage on runoff in long term no-till wheat systems. Soil and Tillage Research 124:32-35, doi:10.1016/j.still.2012.04.009.

Dembele, G. 2015. The impact of different tillage and soil amendments on soil moisture storage, erosion and the yield of maize in the moist semi-deciduous forest zone of Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Deuschle, D., Minella, J.P.G., Hörbe, T.D.A.N., Londero, A.L. and Schneider, F.J.A. 2019. Erosion and hydrological response in no-tillage subjected to crop rotation intensification in southern Brazil. Geoderma 340:157-163, doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2019.01.010.

Erkossa, T., Stahr, K. and Gaiser, T. 2005. Effect of different methods of land preparation on runoff, soil and nutrient losses from a Vertisol in the Ethiopian highlands. Soil Use and Management 21:253-259, doi:10.1079/SUM2005319.

Gebrernichael, D., Nyssen, J., Poesen, J., Deckers, J., Haile, M., Govers, G. and Moeyersons, J. 2005. Effectiveness of stone bunds in controlling soil erosion on cropland in Tigray highlands, Northern Ethiopia. Soil Use and Management 21(3):287-297.

Haregeweyn, N., Tsunekawa, A., Nyssen, J., Poesen, J., Tsubo, M., Meshesha, D.T., Schütt, B., Adgo, E. and Tegegne, F. 2016. Soil erosion and conservation in Ethiopia: A review. Progress in Physical Geography 39:750-774.

Holden, S. and Shiferawl, B. 2004. Land degradation, drought and food security in a less-favoured area in the Ethiopian highlands: a bio-economic model with market imperfections. Agricultural Economics 30:31-49, doi:10.1016/j.agecon.2002.09.001.

Hurni, H, Solomon, A., Amare, B., Berhanu, D., Ludi, E., Portner, B., Birru, Y. and Gete, Z. 2010. Land degradation and sustainable land management in the Highlands of Ethiopia. In: Hurni, H and Wieman,. U (eds), Global Change and Sustainable Development: A synthesis of regional experiences from research partnerships. Perspectives of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South (with an in, Vol. 5, pp. 187–207). University of Bern, doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-145X(199811/12)9:6<529: AID-LDR313>3.0.CO;2-O.

Hurni, K., Zeleke, G., Kassie, M., Tegegne, B., Kassawmar, T., Teferi, E., Moges, A., Tadesse, D., Ahmed, M., Degu, Y., Kebebew, Z., Hodel, E., Amdihun, A., Mekuriaw, A., Debele, B., Deichert, G. and Hurni, H. 2015. Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) in Ethiopia Case Study. Soil Degradation and Sustainable Land Management in the Rainfed Agricultural Areas of Ethiopia: An Assessment of the Economic Implications. Report for the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative. 94pp.

Jemberu, W., Baartman, J., Fleskens, L., Gebreselassie, Y. and Ritsema, C.J. 2017. Assessing the variation in bund structure dimensions and its impact on soil physical properties and hydrology in Koga catchment, Highlands of Ethiopia. Catena 157:195-204.

Kurothe, R.S., Kumar, G., Singh, R., Singh, H.B., Tiwari, S.P., Vishwakarma, A.K., Sena, D.R. and Pande, V.C. 2014. Effect of tillage and cropping systems on runoff, soil loss and crop yields under semiarid rainfed agriculture in India. Soil and Tillage Research 140:126-134, doi:10.1016/j.still.2014.03.005.

Lanckriet, S., Araya, T., Cornelis, W., Verfaillie, E., Poesen, J., Govaerts, B., Bauer, H., Deckers, J., Haile, M. and Nyssen, J. 2012. Impact of conservation agriculture on catchment runoff and soil loss under changing climate conditions in May Zeg-zeg (Ethiopia). Journal of Hydrology 475:336-349, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.10.011.

Lima, P.L.T., Silva, M.L.N., Quinton, J.N., Batista, P.V.G., Cândido, B.M. and Curi, N. 2018. Relationship among crop systems, soil cover, and water erosion on a Typic Hapludox. Revista Brasileira de Ciência do Solo 42:1-16.

Ma, B., Li, C., Li, Z. and Wu, F. 2016. Effects of crops on runoff and soil loss on the sloping farmland under Simulated Rainfall. Clean- Soil, Air, Water 44(7):849-857, doi:10.1002/clen.201400241.

Melesse, T. and Birhanu, B. 2014. Development and Introduction of Conservation Agriculture at the proposed Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve.

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) and World Bank. 2007. Ethiopia: thematic papers on land degradation in Ethiopia. MoARD and World Bank, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Mitiku, H., Herweg, K. and Stillhardt, B. 2006. Sustainable Land Management-A New Approach to Soil and Water Conservation in Ethiopia. Land Resources Management and Environmental Protection Department, Mekelle University; Bern, Switzerland: Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, and Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South, doi:10.7892/boris.19217.

Nyssen, J., Poesen, J., Moeyersons, J., Haile, M. and Deckers, J. 2008. Dynamics of soil erosion rates and controlling factors in the Northern Ethiopian Highlands–towards a sediment budget. Earth surface processes and landforms 33:695-711.

Pundlik, A.D. and Tathod, D.V. 2019. Effect of tillage practices on runoff, soil loss, and nutrient loss. International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences 8(06):1381-1389.

Sadeghi, S.H.R., Gholami, L., Homaee, M. and Darvishan, A.K. 2015. Reducing sediment concentration and soil loss using organic and inorganic amendments at plot scale. Solid Earth Discussions 7:63-89, doi:10.5194/sed-7-63-2015.

Singh, R.K., Chaudhary, R.S., Somasundaram, J., Rashmi, I., Hati, K.M., Sinha, N.K. and Rao, S. 2014. Impact of crop covers on soil organic carbon, runoff, soil-nutrients losses and crop productivity in Vertisols of Central India. Indian Journal of Soil Conservation 42(3):268-275.

Sonneveld, B.G.J.S. 2002. Land under pressure: the impact of water erosion on food production in Ethiopia. Thesis, Vrije University, The Netherlands.

Surur, A.N. 2010. Simulated Impact of Land Use Dynamics on Hydrology during a 20-year-period of Beles Basin in Ethiopia. Master of Science Thesis in Water System Technology Department of Land and Water Resources Engineering Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) SE-100 44 STOCKHOLM, Sweden.

Symeonakis, E., and Drake, N. 2004. Monitoring desertification and land degradation over Sub Saharan Africa. International Journal of Remote Sensing 25:573-592.

Thierfelder, C., Cheesman, S. and Rusinamhodzi, L. 2012. A comparative analysis of conservation agriculture systems: Benefits and challenges of rotations and intercropping in Zimbabwe. Field Crops Research 137:237-250, doi:10.1016/j.fcr.2012.08.017.

Tilahun, S., Guzman, C.D., Zegeye, A.D., Engda, T.A., Collick, A.S., Rimmer, A. and Steenhuis, T.S. 2013. An efficient semi-distributed hillslope erosion model for the subhumid Ethiopian Highlands. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 17:1051-1063, doi:10.5194/hessd-9-2121-2012.

Truman, C.C., Reeves, D.W., Shaw, J.N., Motta, A.C., Burmester, C.H., Raper, R.L. and Schwab, E.B. 2003. Tillage impacts on soil property, runoff, and soil loss variations from a Rhodic Paleudult under simulated rainfall. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 58:258-267.

Ward, P.R., Roper, M.M., Jongepier, R. and Micin, S.F. 2015. Impact of crop residue retention and tillage on water infiltration into a water-repellent soil. Biologia 70(11):1480-1484, doi:10.1515/biolog-2015-0170.

Woyessa, Y.E. and Bennie, A.T. 2004. Factors affecting runoff and soil loss under simulated rainfall on a sandy sandy Bainsvlei Amalia soil. South African Journal of Plant and Soil 21(4):203-208, doi:10.1080/02571862.2004.10635050.








How to Cite

Molla, G. A., & Desta, G. (2022). Land management and crop cover effect on soil erosion in the humid lowlands of Beles River Sub-Basin, North-Western Ethiopia. Journal of Degraded and Mining Lands Management, 10(1), 3971–3979.



Research Article