K Factor 

K factor is soil erodibility factor which represents both susceptibility of soil to erosion and the rate of runoff, as measured under the standard unit plot condition. Soils high in clay have low K values, about 0.05 to 0.15, because they resistant to detachment. Coarse textured soils, such as sandy soils, have low K values, about 0.05 to 0.2, because of low runoff even though these soils are easily detached. Medium textured soils, such as the silt loam soils, have a moderate K values, about 0.25 to 0.4, because they are moderately susceptible to detachment and they produce moderate runoff. Soils having a high silt content are most erodible of all soils. They are easily detached; tend to crust and produce high rates of runoff. Values of K for these soils tend to be greater than 0.4.

Organic matter reduces erodibility because it reduces the susceptibility of the soil to detachment, and it increases infiltration, which reduce runoff and thus erosion. Addition or accumulation of increased organic matter through management such as incorporation of manure is represented in the C factor rather than the K Factor. Extrapolation of the K factor nomograph beyond an organic matter of 4% is not recommended or allowed in RUSLE. In RUSLE, factor K considers the whole soil and factor Kf considers only the fine-earth fraction, the material of <2.00mm equivalent diameter. For most soils, Kf = K.

Soil structures affects both susceptibility to detachment and infiltration. Permeability of the soil profile affects K because it affects runoff.

Although a K factor was selected to represent a soil in its natural condition, past management or misuse of a soil by intensive cropping can increase a soil's erodibility. The K factor may need to be increased if the subsoil is exposed or where the organic matter has been depleted, the soil's structure destroyed or soil compaction has reduced permeability. A qualified soil scientist can assist in making this interpretation.

From Technical Guide to RUSLE use in Michigan, NRCS-USDA State Office of Michigan.

R   K   LS   C   P   T


Copyright 2002 Institute of Water Research, Michigan State University