Experimental evaluation of sediment yield in the first year after replacement of pastures by sugarcane
C. Youlton, A. P. Bragion, and E. Wendland. 2016. Experimental evaluation of sediment yield in the first year after replacement of pastures by sugarcane. Cien. Inv. Agr. 43(3): 374383. Sugarcane cultivation has expanded in south-eastern Brazil in the last decade, mainly for biofuel (ethanol) production. This expansion has occurred on land that was originally covered with pasture and used for livestock production. The purpose of this study is to experimentally determine the impact on runoff and erosion produced by replacing pasture with sugarcane. Runoff plots of 100 m² were established at a farm in Itirapina, Sao Paulo (SP), Brazil, on a hill with a 9% slope and sandy soil. An 18-year-old pasture and a new sugarcane plantation were studied. The degrees of runoff and erosion were determined after each rain event for the first year of cultivation. From 1,459 mm of annual rainfall, the pasture had lower runoff than the sugarcane cover (40.5 vs 56.1 mm, respectively). Soil erosion under pasture was lower than sugarcane, where the highest values were recorded at the beginning of the rainy season, just after cane planting. In the first year, the results indicate an increase in soil loss of almost 500% for sugarcane compared to pasture, from 0.58 to 2.58 Mg ha-1 year-1 under our experimental conditions. Overall, changing land cover from pasture to sugarcane increases soil erosion.