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This NebGuide briefly describes the direct observation, line-transect, photo comparison, and calculation methods that are used to estimate the percentage of the soil surface covered with crop residue.
Leaving crop residue on the soil surface is the easiest and most cost-effective way to reduce soil erosion caused by water and wind. Residue reduces water erosion by lessening the impact of the raindrops, thus reducing the amount of soil that is detached. It also slows flowing water, reducing the amount of soil that can be transported. Residue helps reduce wind erosion by reducing wind velocity near the soil surface and by trapping soil particles carried by the wind.
Many conservation plans that were developed to meet conservation compliance provisions of the 1985 Food Security Act and the 1990 Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act (Farm Bills) specify crop residue management as the primary method for erosion control. Four methods direct observation, line-transect, photo-comparison, and calculation are frequently used to estimate percent residue cover.