Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Soil Resources and Air Quality Affected by Wind Erosion and Fugitive Dust Emissions: Processes, Simulation and Control

Location: Engineering and Wind Erosion Research Unit

2011 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1) Improve and extend the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) model and.
2) integrate WEPS with the National Soil Erosion Research Lab (NSERL) Water Erosion Prediction Program (WEPP) model to consolidate research resources for the two models and to improve the ease of simulating both wind and water erosion.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
1. a) Extend WEPS beyond the current homogenous simulation area approach to improve simulation of field-scale variability by: i) further modularizing the erosion science code, ii) adding sub-field capability, iii) refining WEPS gridding algorithms, and iv) adding landscape terrain effects to WEPS; b) improve model inputs and science for WEPS through: i) updating weather, ii) adding crop competition and improved crop growth, iii) adding seasonal wind barrier porosity variability, and iv) improving soil and vegetation measurements with laser distance techniques; c) extend WEPS to additional soil types (i.e., organic dominated soils) and treatments (i.e., applied biosolids); and d) modify WEPS for application to special problems (i.e., regional air quality modeling, add PM2.5 emission, batch mode for WEPS, develop a single-event model); and e) publish the WEPS technical document. 2. Utilize common science and interface code for WEPP and WEPS to: a) provide common runoff and evaporation processes between the two models; b) provide common “winter processes” (simulation of freezing, thawing, freeze-drying processes); c) add water erosion specific input (hillslope length, slope, etc.) and output (water erosion, runoff, etc.) to the current standalone WEPS interface; d) address restrictions to simulating a homogeneous region represented by a single soil with common management practices applied to the entire field; and e) provide the necessary inputs to represent water erosion specific practices, such as terraces, artificial drainage, etc. to the user interface.


3.Progress Report
The Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) model was installed on 15,000 USDA computers including 2,200 NRCS field offices nationwide beginning October, 2010. NRCS is using WEPS for: a) assisting land managers in controlling wind erosion; b) establishing acceptable field level conservation plans; and c) determining wind erosion susceptibility as part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and other national conservation program enrollments. The WEPS model is a critical component of the USDA strategy to reduce particulate emissions from cultivated agricultural lands.

ARS scientists at Manhattan, KS continue work to improve the WEPS model which includes development of more maintainable computer code to allow expansion to more complex field configurations and regional simulations. Research was initiated to provide more detailed output of erosion losses as affected by hills, wind barriers, and field boundaries. An improved weather database has been developed and incorporated into WEPS. Plant growth routines are being expanded for multiple crops within a field to simulate situations such as double cropping and weed competition. A laser-based system was developed and used in the field which allows for detailed yet rapid and easy measurement of soil roughness. WEPS has been modified for use as part of a dust warning system and a paper published on using WEPS to predict regional dispersion of particulate emissions from soil. A user requirements document was delivered to customers which outlines a WEPS based system to predict wind erosion from construction and other disturbed lands. A research plan was also developed to study potential emission of fine dust particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5). Work continues to incorporate water erosion routines into WEPS in an effort to provide both wind and water erosion in one combined model.

Collaborative field research by ARS scientists from Manhattan, KS and Lubbock, TX continued in Florida and Michigan to investigate the wind erodibility of highly productive but highly erodible organic matter dominated soils. Field wind tunnel tests were completed and new field sites selected to study the effects of weather and management on changes in wind erodibility of these soils. Laboratory analysis was also completed for a study seeking to determine the effects of applied municipal biosolids on wind erosion from farmlands. WEPS was used to determine the potential effects on wind erosion of plant residue removal for bio-energy. Three chapters were completed for an upcoming USDA Agricultural Handbook: WEPS Technical Documentation.

Field experiments were conducted and data collected for a study at Ft. Riley, Kansas to determine the effects of military training vehicle (M1A1-Abrams Tank and Humvee) traffic on soil wind erodibility and potential dust emissions. This DOD funded research is part of a larger project which includes similar studies on different soil types, climatic regimes, and vegetation components. This study will contribute to the prediction of wind erosion and particulate emissions as a result of military training activities and allow better management of such lands to control dust emissions.


4.Accomplishments
1. Wind Erosion Prediction System implemented by USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Ssrvice. Wind erosion is a severe problem on cultivated agricultural lands throughout the US. ARS researchers at Manhattan, KS, developed the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) model at the request of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for improved wind erosion prediction technology. In 2010, NRCS began using the model on 15,000 computers in its 2,200 field offices nationwide for all new conservation plans where wind erosion is a problem. NRCS is using the model for: assisting land managers in controlling wind erosion; establishing acceptable field level conservation plans; and determining wind erosion susceptibility as part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and other national conservation program enrollments. The model is a critical component of the USDA strategy to reduce particulate emissions from cultivated agricultural lands.

2. Wind erosion of organic dominated soils. Wind erosion is a serious problem on the highly productive organic dominated soils in the US. ARS scientists from Manhattan, KS and Lubbock, TX, completed field wind tunnel research in Florida and Michigan to investigate the wind erodibility of these soils. Equations derived from this work will be used to predict soil loss on these soils. This work was deemed critical by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and ARS to the application of the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) on these highly productive but highly erodible soils. This research will allow land managers to select from alternative management scenarios to reduce or control wind erosion.

3. Predicting pathways of windblown dust. Dust from eroding farm and other lands can have regional impacts on both rural and urban air quality. ARS researchers at Manhattan, KS, collaborating with scientists from Mexico, combined the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) erosion submodel with an air quality model to study of the effect of wind erosion on fine dust production and movement around Mexico City. The published results establish the importance of wind erosion from the dry Lake of Texcoco and agricultural lands to the East and South-East of Mexico City on urban air quality, its genesis, morphology, and regional implications. The combined erosion and air quality model provide a useful computational tool to study the wind erosion phenomenon, its sources, and impact on rural and urban regions.

4. Laser roughness meter. Wind erosion research and prediction demand accurate measurements of soil surface roughness. A laser-based, field portable, measurement system capable of obtaining surface elevations with sub-centimeter accuracy was developed by ARS researchers in Manhattan, KS and used in the field for the first time in 2010. This system provides a more accurate and rapid determination of soil roughness as a parameter affecting wind erodibility. This technology will support the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) by determining soil roughness input parameters.


Review Publications
Diaz, E.N., Tatarko, J., Jazcilevich, A.D., Garcia, A.R., Caetano, E., Ruiz-Suarez, L.G. 2010. A modeling study of aeolian erosion enhanced by surface wind confluences over Mexico City. Aeolian Research. 2:143-157. doi:10.1016/j.aeolia.

Mamedov, A.I., Wagner, L.E., Huang, C., Norton, L.D., Levy, G.J. 2010. Polyacrylamide effects on aggregate and structure stability of soils with different clay mineralogy. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 74(5):1720-1732.

Hagen, L.J. 2010. Erosion by Wind: Modeling. In: Lal, R. editor. Encyclopedia of Soil Science: Second Edition. London: Taylor and Francis publishers. p. 1-4.

Tatarko, J., Stefonick, N.A. 2007. Wind Erodibility of Biosolids - Amended Soils: A Status Report. Water Environment Federation. 12(5):12-15

Last Modified: 4/24/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page