Above, west Texas dust storm. Crop residue, such
as corn plants left on the field after harvest, can reduce wind erosion. Below,
ARS researchers use a scanner to measure how much corn residue remained
standing after winter. Click the images for more information about
Wind Erosion Model Transferred from ARS to
NRCS By Erin
Peabody April 7, 2005
MANHATTAN, Kan., April 7--A computer model that is the latest
cutting-edge tool for forecasting wind erosion damage is a step closer to
reaching growers and landowners in wind-prone regions of the country, with the
transfer on April 4 of the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) model from
U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists to
"Farmers in Great Plains states, especially Kansas, Nebraska,
Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas, have long sought more effective ways to cope with
the region's erratic winds and recurrent droughts, which together can strip
vital topsoil and carry it hundreds of miles," said
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Administrator Edward B.
"WEPS is an important scientific tool that will help landowners in
areas with severe wind erosion," said Natural Resources Conservation Service
(NRCS) Chief Bruce Knight. "This is the product of a 16-year collaboration of
ARS scientists and NRCS agronomists providing producers with a valuable tool
for making sound conservation decisions."
Researchers developed the computer model at ARS, USDA's chief
intramural scientific research agency, and formally transferred it to NRCS in
the April 4 ceremony. As the primary federal agency that works with private
landowners to help them conserve, maintain and improve natural resources, NRCS
will oversee WEPS' implementation across the United States.
For the past 40 years, growers have made erosion-related decisions
based on a simple equation that didn't take into account new advances in
erosion science and computer technology. WEPS can simulate weather, soil and
crop conditions, and wind erosion on a daily basis. It can also project the
emission of the tiny dust particles referred to as PM-10.
Led by ARS soil expert
L. Skidmore, scientists involved in the WEPS project have been developing
and fine-tuning the system for the past 16 years. The scientists work in the
Erosion Research Unit, part of the agency's
Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan.
NRCS and Extension Service personnel, as well as individual farmers,
will be able to use WEPS to formulate specific wind erosion control practices.
The decision support system can guide growers to the right approach, whether
it's establishing a soil-stabilizing crop cover, setting up windbreaks and
barriers, or reducing the soil's erodibility by improving soil stability.
The ARS Wind Erosion Research Unit was established in 1947 by Congress
in response to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The unit is recognized nationally
and internationally as the world leader in research on the devastating effects
that winds can have on agricultural, soil, water, plant and air resources. In
addition, wind-driven dust storms are capable of generating massive, rolling
black clouds that can cause hazardous driving conditions and motorist
More than 60 million acres of land in the United States are
susceptible to wind erosion. In the Great Plains region alone, about 5 million
acres are moderately to severely damaged by wind erosion each year. This lost
topsoil, if it could be bought and replaced, would have an estimated value of