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New Technologies to Protect Natural ResourcesBy 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). NRCS—also part of USDA—leads 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 data.
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: /AboutUs/AboutUs.htm.