Friday, June 11, 2010

Eroded Area

About 70 to 80 years ago, the soil at Blue jay Barrens lost the ability to grow any of the typical agricultural plants. The soil had been farmed to death. Topsoil and a good section of subsoil were lost due to annual plowing in preparation of planting corn, sorghum, oats and tobacco. Fields were planted to pasture and then the pasture was so poorly managed that the planted grasses died. The destroyed soil, now devoid of any type of vegetative cover, began to erode at a record pace. The fields were abandoned and left to recover as best they could. Cuts in the fields made their way across the landscape like ripples across a pond. In some fields, the depth of soil loss could be measured in feet.

In many areas, the soil was stripped right down to the bedrock. Fortunately, this property was in an area that was historically noted as having random populations of prairie type plants that were able to live on extremely poor, dry soil. These plants were able to colonize, and over time stabilize the eroding soil.

In some places, it’s a struggle for plants to grow. When erosion stops, soil formation commences, but it will take tens of thousands of years to bring the soil back to what it was just a couple of hundred years ago.

The advancing cut has almost come to a halt. The vertical face is unstable and tends to slump a little bit each winter, but in many areas the vegetation is able to stabilize the slopes and allow more plants to fill in the remaining bare patches.

Another 60 years will probably allow the remaining bare areas to disappear under vegetative cover. The cuts will continue to mellow down and will eventually be nothing but little rolling hills across the field. I imagine some people will wonder why the field is contoured in that way.


  1. All done without thought. So much is, I fear. Even today, with all the knowledge we have, and technology that just allows us to leave our fingerprint easier. ~karen

  2. More interesting information. Thank you.