Mandi, September 15
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi, researchers are examining the potential of plants and fibre in combating soil erosion. According to the researchers, soil erosion, a complex global environmental issue, has garnered significant worldwide attention. The issue assumes added importance in India, where nearly 60 per cent of land faces soil erosion. Around 145 million hectares in the country is in need of immediate conservation efforts from a reported total area of 305.9 million hectares.
“Soil erosion has far-reaching consequences, including lost fertility, reduced water-holding capacity, lower crop yield, increased runoff and environmental damage due to sedimentation in water bodies. Additionally, soil erosion destabilises the ground, making it more susceptible to landslides on steep slopes,” they said.
Fibres to mitigate erosion
It has long been known that plant roots can effectively reduce soil erosion by enhancing soil properties, preventing detachment by raindrops and reducing runoff. The practice of bioengineering employs living plants and fibres to stabilise soil and mitigate erosion. Beyond saving the soil, bioengineering also promotes biodiversity by introducing native plant species. —Dr Arnav Bhavsar Vinayak, A researchers
Dr Arnav Bhavsar Vinayak, one of the researchers, said, “It has long been known that plant roots can effectively reduce soil erosion by enhancing soil properties, preventing detachment by raindrops and reducing runoff. The practice of bioengineering employs living plants and fibres to stabilise soil and mitigate erosion. Beyond saving the soil, bioengineering also promotes biodiversity by introducing native plant species. The IIT-Mandi team has devised methods to evaluate the effectiveness of bioengineering solutions in controlling erosion.”
“We established a cost-effective laboratory setup for erosion studies under simulated rainfall conditions. This setup allows controlled testing of the effects of rainfall intensity, slope gradient, soil texture and vegetation cover on soil erosion. The team employs image analysis to quantify soil erosion and show the effectiveness of bioengineering methods in its prevention. The study also provides insights into soil detachment, transport, and deposition mechanisms,” he said.
Vinayak said, “The study showed that natural vegetation roots and added fibres can work together to significantly improve soil cohesion. The type of soil, moisture content, and reinforcement collectively influence erosion rates, offering insights into soil conservation strategies. This multidisciplinary approach, combining bioengineering and image analysis, provides a promising path for addressing the challenge of soil erosion.”
In terms of practical implications and future work, another researcher Dr KV Uday said, “We developed a simple method to gauge the effectiveness of nature-based erosion mitigation solutions. Our method can differentiate between splash-induced erosion and runoff-induced erosion, a capability lacking in current methodologies. Also, numerical studies help enhance specific strategies for soil erosion control in larger fields.”
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