New Technologies to Protect Natural Resources
By Jan Suszkiw
February 26, 2008
New tools created by scientists
with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in collaboration with the National
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
will help keep the environment healthy by streamlining the process of
developing computer models and decision-support tools used by agricultural
producers and others in natural resource analysis and conservation planning.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA). NRCSalso part of
USDAleads national conservation of soil, water, air and other natural
resources on private land.
One of the new technologies is the Object-Modeling System (OMS), which
serves as a framework for streamlining the development, integration, use and
maintenance of disparate computer simulation modules and tools built around
hydrological, erosion, climate, crop-growth and other agricultural research
OMS was developed by scientists with ARS'
Agricultural Systems Research
Unit in Fort Collins, Colo., in collaboration with the NRCS
Information Technology Center and
the U.S. Geological Survey.
The second new tool is an updated and field-tested version of the
Wind-Erosion Prediction System (WEPS). This computer program will equip NRCS
field personnel with a cutting-edge tool for calculating topsoil losses caused
by wind erosion, especially in drought-prone regions of the country such as the
Great Plains, where some 5 million acres are at risk. WEPS will also allow
users to model how such losses could be avoided or reduced by implementing a
given erosion-control measure, such as planting cover crops, using conservation
tillage or establishing wind buffers.
WEPS is the result of 16 years of collaboration between ARS and NRCS
software engineers and scientists. The updated version includes changes
incorporated after three years of field testing, NRCS feedback, and fine-tuning
to make WEPS even more user-friendly.
Since its inception in the 1930s, NRCS' conservation delivery system
continues a unique partnership, delivering conservation that respects local
needs, while accommodating state and national interests. For more information
about NRCS, visit their website at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.
For more information about ARS, visit: