What is soil erosion?

It is the process in which the topmost layer of the land or soil wears away due to topography, climate, soil structure and composition and vegetation present. Soil erosion results from the interaction of many factors which are rainfall characteristics, geomorphology, land use and soil properties. It is common to think of erosion (soil degradation) being caused by two main elements namely water and wind. However, it is also important to consider human and agricultural forces such as traffic, earthworks (civil and mining), tilling and the action of livestock. 

The natural forces of wind and water result in loss of topsoil particles, which is an irreversible loss as the blown soil particles can get deposited elsewhere by wind. The downside is that it takes hundreds and thousands of years for one inch of topsoil to form hence loss in topsoil must be prevented and managed at all costs. What are some disadvantages of soil erosion? During soil erosion, topsoil erodes first and as the nutrient-rich topsoil erodes, the soil that becomes exposed and is less likely to contain enough nutrients to sustain plant life. As the topsoil erodes, the process exposes deeper soil at the land’s surface. This deeper soil does not hold water well, it is very compact and has reduced drainage capacity. Therefore, runoff increases in these areas. Soil erosion causes sediment to accumulate in nearby lakes, rivers and oceans. Sedimentation in water bodies flora and fauna of the water bodies. The nutrients lost from land surfaces as the soil erodes moves to water bodies when the sediment accumulates and some of these nutrients promote the growth of aquatic plants that are detrimental to the overall health of the water body.   

How to prevent and manage soil erosion?

will be evaluated from unpacking the following focal points: 

  • What are the methods of controlling soil erosion?
  • Prevention and managing soil erosion in hill slopes and gullies.
  • Prevention and managing soil erosion post wildfires. 

What are the methods of controlling soil erosion? 

There are different methods of controlling soil erosion. Oftentimes, activities that disturb the land contribute to soil erosion, the most common include farming, grazing, logging and mining and recreational activities. The process of removing vegetation and ploughing land without properly preparing the site is often the main cause of soil erosion. The use of organic textile like coir or jute matting will help in preparation of the site for soil erosion. These materials allow both air and water to pass through easily, letting the soil beneath to breathe properly whilst also promoting the growth of the vegetation. Livestock expose topsoil by eating grasses and shrubs. Although this helps the ecosystem, too much won’t be good for the land. Animal hooves can also pull-out plants by their roots which is as bad as overgrazing. A good way to prevent soil erosion is through responsible livestock management making sure to only care for grazing animals that fit the land area allocated to them. Excessive logging is never good for the environment. Trees protect the ground from soil erosion and removing trees without replacing them will put the land area at risk from erosion. Revegetation is a good method to control soil erosion. The roots from the vegetation bind the soil particles which prevents it from being susceptible to agents of soil erosion. The main strategies to prevent erosion are biological and physical. Biological erosion control is accomplished by maintaining a plant layer that covers the soil surface, protecting it from wind and rain. Plant roots also hold soil in place. 

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Preventing and managing soil erosion in hill slopes and gullies

Hill slopes are prone to sheet erosion and rill erosion. The amount of hillslope erosion largely depends on how the land is used. Sheet erosion occurs when a thin layer of topsoil is removed over a whole hillside and may not be readily noticed. Rill erosion occurs when runoff water forms small channels as it concentrates down a slope and the deeper the rills the more susceptibility to gully erosion. Gully erosion happens when runoff concentrates and flows strongly enough to detach and move soil particles. Effective control of soil erosion by water consists of minimizing the impact of raindrops and the velocity of running water on the soil surface. Global Road Technology offers GRT Nature Plus a spray over liquid polymer that provides erosion control and nutrients to increase germination and strike rate for the short and long term hence can be effectively utilized as a key solution for preventing erosion while seeds establish.  GRT Nature Plus allows for greater penetration, mobility and increased uptake of nutrients by plants and is an ideal product to give excellent growth, root development and sustainable vegetation health. These prevent raindrops from striking the bare surface. The presence of a protective vegetative cover or a mulch on the soil surface keeps it from direct action of wind, keeping the topsoil in a cloddy rather than dusty state. 

Preventing and managing soil erosion post bushfires

In cases of reducing post-fire runoff and erosion there are various polymeric soil binders that have been effectively utilized. Global Road Technology offers non-toxic and environmentally friendly product GRT Enviro-Binder. It is a tough and durable spray over liquid polymer which forms matrix bonds within the soil allowing the vegetative growth to occur whilst maintaining its erosion and dust suppression properties for the long term. The benefits of GRT Enviro-Binder include: 

  • long-lasting retention of liquid whilst offering effective cohesion of soil particles. 
  • durable water-resistant surface.
  • dust suppression by cementation of soil particles and control against moisture change. 
  • allows for mobility and increased uptake of nutrients by plants. 
  • ideal product for excellent growth, root development and sustainable vegetation health. 

Another polymer technology, which can deliver excellent erosion control for exposed surfaces at very cost-effective rates, is GRT Soil-Loc. It provides the ability to penetrate and form a top layer of interconnected polymeric and soil units, allowing for soil cohesiveness with benefits of increased hygroscopic water in the soil which makes soil greater interparticle attraction, therefore, increasing soil resistance to erosion. 

Polymeric erosion control solutions offered by GRT prevent and manage soil erosion with the thought of what happens post its service life. These biodegradable solutions are environmentally friendly enabling the preventing and managing erosion its source. These GRT products are formulated to protect vulnerable soils, worldwide. 

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Cloud A. 2009. Australian Soil and Land Survey Field Handbook. 3rd Edition. CSIRO Publishing. Australia.

Guerra et al. 2016. An assessment of soil erosion prevention by vegetation in Mediterranean Europe: Current trends of ecosystem service provision. Ecological Indicators. 60. 213 -222. 

Hillel, D. 2008. Soil Erosion and Conversation. Soil in the Environment. 197 – 210.

Le Bissonnais, Y., Singer, M.J., and Bradford, J.M. 1993. Assessment of soil erodibility: the relationship between soil properties, erosion processes and susceptibility to erosion. Farm Land Erosion: In Temperate Plains Environment and Hills. 87 – 97.