Runoff and water quality from highway hillsides: Influence compost/mulch

Noura Bakr, Tamer A. Elbana, Allen E. Arceneaux, Yuanda Zhu, David C. Weindorf, H. Magdi Selim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Rainfall simulation experiments were carried out to quantify the effectiveness of surface compost/mulch placed on highway embankments on runoff and soil and nutrient losses. Six of eight plots received either 5 or 10cm thick surface compost/mulch. The plots were located in two highway locations; one in an active highway construction area on US 61, and another in an established area with continual rill and sheet erosion on I-49, West Feliciana and Rapides Parishes, Louisiana, respectively. A Tlaloc 3000 rainfall simulator at an intensity of 70-80mmh-1 was used for the runoff experiments. Two consecutive pulses of 30min durations were applied to each plot in 2011 and 2012. The presence of the compost/mulch resulted in a reduction of runoff flow rates from a high of 1.3mmmin-1 to a low of 0.4mmmin-1. The cumulative runoff losses as a percentage of the applied rainfall was 90% for a tilled plot (control) which was reduced to 28% in an adjacent plot having 10cm compost/mulch. Regardless of their thickness, light tillage and incorporation of the compost/mulch reduced its effectiveness and increased runoff and soil losses. The antecedent soil moisture content during 2011 and 2012 seasons were distinctly different. Nevertheless, the presence of the compost/mulch provided similar runoff flow rates and soil losses for both years. We conclude that the presence of compost/mulch on the soil surface decreased runoff flow rate, soil and phosphate (P) losses and is recommended for highway embankment erosion control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-170
Number of pages13
JournalSoil and Tillage Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Compost/mulch
  • Flow rate
  • P losses
  • Rainfall simulator
  • Runoff
  • Soil losses


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