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.
Wind erosion and fugitive dust continue to threaten soil resources, air quality, and sustainable
agricultural production. Research objectives to address these problems are: 1) basic research to understand
the processes of particulate dust emissions; 2) improve and extend the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS)
model to additional applications, including rangelands, construction sites and other disturbed lands; 3)
develop improved control practices for reducing dust emissions, and; 4) transfer science based technology to
customers. The studies conducted result in reliable
wind erosion prediction tools and control practices to sustain agriculture, protect the environment, and
conserve natural resources.
Recent Accomplishments 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
Beneficiaries of this research include the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
which is using the WEPS model for conservation planning in 2,200 field offices nationwide. In addition, State
and Federal regulatory policy agencies relative to conservation programs and climate change, conservation
planners and land mangers benefit from this wind erosion research.
2005 Expert Review Panel's Conclusion
Wind erosion research at Manhattan, KS
"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."
For more information, contact:
USDA - Agricultural Research Service
Engineering & Wind Erosion Research Unit
1515 College Avenue
Manhattan, KS 66502