WIND EROSION RESEARCH
Wind erosion is a serious problem in the United States and the world. It is responsible for about
half of the more than two billion tons of soil lost from U.S. cropland annually. In the Great Plains
alone, about five million acres are damaged moderately to severely by wind erosion each year. Wind
erosion increases fertilizer requirements by removing the most fertile parts of the soil. Some soil
from damaged land enters the atmosphere where it obscures visibility, pollutes the air, causes automobile
accidents, fouls machinery, and imperils animal and human health. Blowing soil also fills road and
irrigation ditches; buries fences; reduces seedling survival and growth; damages and lowers the quality
of vegetable crops; increases susceptibility of plants to diseases; and contributes to transmission of
plant pathogens. Deposition of wind blown sediments in drainage pathways and on water bodies significantly
deteriorates water quality. Estimates of on-site and off-site costs of soil erosion by wind exceed
$20 billion per year.
The mission of the Wind Erosion Research Unit is address customer identified elements under the listed
strategies for sustaining agriculture, protecting the environment, and conserving natural resources.
The threat of wind erosion is being challenged by: 1) increasing our understanding of particulate dust
emissions from wind erosion processes, 2) improving the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) for cropland
and extending it to range, forest, military, and disturbed lands, 3) developing new control practices for
reducing dust emissions from wind erosion and incorporating them into WEPS, and 4) providing customer
satisfaction through technology transfer. Specific emphasis is placed on the continued improvement and
application of WEPS.
Released WEPS to the Natural Resources Conservation Service for implementation in the United States
for conservation planning. WEPS is a state-of-the-art tool for developing BMPs to combat wind erosion
is the only model available to provide realistic estimates of PM10 (fine dust) from agricultural lands.
Developed regional erosion hazard mapping techniques; interacted daily with customers and collaborators;
conducted workshops nationally and internationally; monitored the long term impact of wind erosion on soil
quality; published research results in journals; transferred WEPS and other wind erosion technology directly
to the public
Agricultural producers, State and Federal regulatory agencies, those making national resource inventories,
conservation planners, those formulating policies relating to conservation reserve programs and global change,
land managers - including military training lands, transportation agencies, land developers, and in-effect all
2005 Expert Review Panel's Conclusion
The Wind Erosion Research Unit
"has a long history as the premier agricultural wind erosion research facility … and continues to be the
leading agricultural wind erosion laboratory in the world."
At the current proposed funding level, management plans not to replace the next retiring
scientist (average age of Unit Category 1 scientists is more than seventy years). Non replacement of a retiring scientist
would jeopardize the continuing existence of the Research Unit.
For more information, contact:
USDA - Agricultural Research Service
Wind Erosion Research Unit
1515 College Avenue
Manhattan, KS 66502
February 27, 2006
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