Tillage erosion as an important driver of in-field biomass patterns in an intensively used hummocky landscape

Lena Katharina Öttl, Florian Wilken, Karl Auerswald, Michael Sommer, Marc Wehrhan, Peter Fiener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Tillage erosion causes substantial soil redistribution that can exceed water erosion especially in hummocky landscapes under highly mechanized large field agriculture. Consequently, truncated soil profiles can be found on hill shoulders and top slopes, whereas colluvial material is accumulated at footslopes, in depressions, and along downslope field borders. We tested the hypothesis that soil erosion substantially affects in-field patterns of the enhanced vegetation index (EVI) of different crop types on landscape scale. The interrelation between the EVI (RAPIDEYE satellite data; 5 m spatial resolution) as a proxy for crop biomass and modeled total soil erosion (tillage and water erosion modeled using SPEROS-C) was analyzed for the Quillow catchment (size: 196 km2) in Northeast Germany in a wet versus normal year for four crop types (winter wheat, maize, winter rapeseed, winter barley). Our findings clearly indicate that eroded areas had the lowest EVI values, while the highest EVI values were found in depositional areas. The differences in the EVI between erosional and depositional sites are more pronounced in the analyzed normal year. The net effect of total erosion on the EVI compared to areas without pronounced erosion or deposition ranged from −10.2% for maize in the normal year to +3.7% for winter barley in the wet year. Tillage erosion has been identified as an important driver of soil degradation affecting in-field crop biomass patterns in a hummocky ground moraine landscape. While soil erosion estimates are to be made, more attention should be given toward tillage erosion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3077-3091
Number of pages15
JournalLand Degradation and Development
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • EVI
  • agroscapelab Quillow
  • crop biomass patterns
  • remote sensing
  • tillage erosion


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