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The soil erodibility factor (K) of the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation is currently considered a constant for all soils in the same type, regardless of production practice. To examine the effect of alternative production systems on the K-factor we compared pairs of alternatively and conventionally farmed fields on a Judson silt loam (Fine-silty, mixed, mesic Cumulic Hapludolls), a Yutan silty clay loam (Fine-silty, mixed, mesic Mollic Hapludalf), and a Wann fine sandy loam (Coarse-loamy, mixed, mesic Fluvaquentic Haplustolls). Soil cores were taken from the surface 10 cm and analyzed for organic matter, permeability, structure, and texture. These data were used to estimate K-factors from a nomograph. All soils in the study had a fine granular structure. Organic matter content and permeability were significantly higher for the alternatively managed field at every location, except for no difference in permeability on the Judson soil. However, the K-factor was significantly lower for the alternative system on the Judson soil. Of all the parameters, texture has the greatest influence in determining K-factors within the nomograph, with soils higher in silt being more erodible than soils higher in sand or clay. Thus, the influences of alternative production systems affected the Judson soil to a greater degree than other textures because of its higher inherent susceptibility to erosion. This study shows that alternative production systems affect the K-factor of some soil types and can reduce soil erodibility, and therefore should be considered when developing conservation plans.
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