May 2021 – Erosion calculator is a modern interactive tool that, with high accuracy, analyzes the loss of soil caused by running water (water erosion) in the country and models the value of its loss with the help of different measures such as modification of farmed crops, agrotechnical intervention or a combination of both.

The calculator is built on our product for supporting space decisions, yDecision, and was founded/created as part of the European project URANOS.
Every Slovak farmer, even without technological know-how, can with just a few clicks find out how to best prevent the loss of the top, most fertile layer of soil due to surface water. The effect of anti-erosion measures is verified by the modeled scenario. The first step of the calculation is to choose the territory based on orthophoto maps. They can either choose the area based on borders of farmed territory or choose specific areas and draw their own borders on the map. The second step is to choose from the selection menu a combination of intended measures. Currently, the user chooses from 8 types of agrotechnical measures and 12 types of crops available. Our team, along with our project partners, are constantly working on expanding them. The results of the analysis, in other words, the impact of selected measures on the level of erosion, are shown on the map, along with clear graphs and tables. The ability to compare and contrast several scenarios and their impact on the level of erosion is a certainty, same as modern design and a friendly user experience.
Innovation into every economic sector
Our goal was to create an understandable and intuitive tool for farmers. Include all complex farming calculations into the system and help the farmers, or other users, that influence or control sustainable use of our land, in just a few clicks show how their chosen farming practices help or worsen the rate of soil degradation,” says Radovan Sunega, director of research and innovation projects YMS, as he explains the intention of the creators of the calculator. The general trend for simplicity and understanding of information in tandem with the amount of publicly available data opens doors to clever technology even where it haves’t gotten into everyday practice. That is exactly what we are doing with the prototype of the erosion calculator. We know that farmers don’t have the time to research theories and try out different approaches, they need to actively take care of the field. This is why YMS and expert partners, as part of the project URANOS, prepared models for calculating erosion and built them into the calculator’s system. In this manner, everyone can access and use the calculator with minimal training,” adds Radovan Sunega.
The erosion calculator is meant for every user that takes care of the soil, grows crops on large areas of land, and therefore has lawful duty to observe and prevent water erosion. Small farmers, large farming companies, stakeholders, and state organizations that work as supervision, protection, and advice to Slovak farming. It will help other experts as well, for example landscape architects or surveying companies, who can use it as a tool during the construction of land improvements, their proposals, as well as communication of various variants and scenarios.
Picture 1: Boundaries using 162 7404/1 4A with potential erosion (detailed layout of erosion showed on the map + zonal statistics with an average value of potential erosion for specific limits of use in the table)
Tailored protection backed by science
The analysis comes from well-documented facts about how water erosion influences the characteristics of the land and the manner, in which it is managed. This means that the basic character of the territory, for example, the incline and typical amount of precipitation show how prone the given soil is to water erosion in an unmaintained state. This potential erosion is also influenced by the manner, in which the area is farmed, meaning what crops are farmed using what agrotechnical practices. The point of the calculator is to estimate the impact of different manners of managing water erosion and help users verify their activities in simulated conditions.
Thanks to that, all farmers can help to protect the soil by choosing management in accordance with the position of the area, climate and relief, which are the main factors influencing the baseline erosion rate. The calculator contains real agricultural knowledge, empirically proven scientific facts, based on which the base rate of water erosion is calculated. We also added the influence of agrotechnical measures, such as contouring or furrowing, which in some cases can completely stop erosion. This was followed by considering more than a dozen traditional crops and their impact on erosion. The model automatically limits mutually exclusive practices so that no error can be made during the calculation. The result is a carefully compiled professional simulation model. The farmer can be certain that his actions are being based on the most modern available knowledge,” explains domain expert and Director of Business and Development at YMS, Radovan Hilbert.
Picture 2: Defining inputs for the model (draw/highlight the location on a map, crop selection, and measures for modeling erosion)
Tool for advanced simulation
Even a farmer that has variable areas that require different approaches will be satisfied. They can separate their areas into smaller parcels and apply various measures to each of them. “If, for example, a farmer’s area is partially on a hill, where erosion is automatically worse, and partially on flat land, where it is minimal, they can divide it in the map precisely based on the terrain and calculate effects of measures. How planting different crops, using different technology and for example building an access road will affect erosion,” continues Radovan Hilbert.
Tool for help and protection
Farmers have a duty to maintain soil as stated in law no. 220/2004 Z.z. about protecting and using agricultural soil. The main humus component of the soil is extremely valuable and uncontrolled water erosion with time causes loss of soil substrate, nutrients, and permanent degradation. The control authorities regularly verify measures, a map of soil erosion is publically available and is constantly maintained and updated by the Research Institute of Soil Science and Soil Protection. The erosion calculator is one of the products from the research project URANOS, in which several partners are involved. It is a very clever and effective tool for planning and controlling anti-erosion activities. The calculator will also be an asset for control and advisory bodies and can become a platform to greater cooperation for the best anti-erosion protection of Slovak fields,” closes the topic Radovan Sunega.
Picture 3: Result after applying anti-erosion measures — selected boundary 162 7404/1 4A before simulation left and after simulation right, average erosion value on the boundary of use lowered from 6,53 t/ha/year to 1,89 t/ha/year.
Technical parameters
The erosion calculator is built on the analysis platform by YMS, yDecision, the so-called Management decision space, which specializes in in-depth analysis on large areas. The expert team based the calculation of the base erosion rate on generally accepted and dominantly used Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and is working on a new digital relief model DMR 5.0 from aerial laser scanning data, available from the Office of Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre of the Slovak Republic. The model calculator contains a statistical zonal calculator of average values of water erosion based on individual boundaries of use or cultural parts. It contains interactive modeling tools for calculating the value of real water erosion, which can quantify the reduction of soil value after sowing specific cultural crops or using specific anti-erosion agrotechnical measures.
Support from the European project URANOS
The calculator was made as a part of the project URANOS, Data and knowledge support for decision making and strategic planning systems in fields of adapting agricultural land to climate change and minimizing the degradation of agricultural soil, on which 6 expert partners are participating:
– Institute of Landscape Ecology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences
– National Agricultural and Food Center
– Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra
– Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute
– University of Constantine the Philosopher in Nitra
– YMS, a.s.
This article was created thanks to the support under the Operational Program Integrated Infrastructure for the project: “Data and knowledge support for decision making and strategic planning systems in fields of adapting agricultural land to climate change and minimizing the degradation of agricultural soil” (code ITMS2014+313011W580), co-financed by the EU Regional Development European Fund.