Location: Great Basin Rangelands ResearchTitle: A strategic plan for future USDA- Agricultural Research Service erosion research and model development
Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/21/2020
Publication Date: 11/1/2020
Citation: Weltz, M.A., Huang, C., Newingham, B.A., Tatarko, J., Nouwakpo, S.K., Tsegaye, T.D. 2020. A strategic plan for future USDA- Agricultural Research Service erosion research and model development. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 75(6):137A-143A. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.2020.0805A.
Interpretive Summary: Soil erosion is a natural process and the erosion potential of a site is the result of complex interactions among soil, vegetation, topographic position, land use and management, and climate. USDA has a long history of conducting basic research in soil erosion and developing erosion assessment tools used for conservation planning and risk assessment. However, research efforts and model development have historically been segregated, and researchers in these two fields have therefore developed separate soil erosion assessment tools. In developing the new USDA erosion research and prediction system, a transition plan has been developed to ensure continuity of ongoing efforts with NRCS, especially during the first five years. This plan addresses staff availability and continuity of operations to replace staff when vacancies occur and mentoring to ensure program integrity and capacity to deliver products as scheduled. USDA recognized the need to formulate a coordinated effort to develop the next generation soil erosion prediction system that contains the most current erosion science. To meet the current and growing challenges, USDA research capacity needs to be expanded across the Nation to include an additional 26 scientist positions with an increase in base funds of $12 million. These new erosion prediction tools will (i) have interfaces that meet user needs and can incorporate data from multiple data sources; (ii) implement software engineering standards, (iii) institutional commitment in expanding current research personnel and resources; and (iv) expanding LTAR so that wind and water erosion processes in critical areas of the nation are monitored and national databases are developed and maintained.
Technical Abstract: Soil erosion is a natural process, and the erosion potential of a site is the result of complex interactions among soil, vegetation, topographic position, land use and management, and climate. Soil erosion occurs when aeolian and hydrologic processes exceed a soil’s inherent resistance to these forces. Soil erosion was recognized as a significant problem at both local and national scales in the United States in the 1920s; by 1935 soil erosion was considered a national disaster, covering over one-half of the country (Sampson and Weyl 1918; Weaver 1935), and is still a concern with 21% of the western United States degraded and vulnerable to accelerated soil erosion (Herrick et al. 2010; Weltz et al. 2014a; Duniway et al. 2019). In 1995, it was estimated that 4 × 109 t (4.4 × 109 tn) of soil was lost from US cropland (Pimentel et al. 1995). The most vulnerable areas for soil movement and thus erosion occur where annual precipitation is 100 to 400 mm y–1 (4 to 16 in yr–1), which limits soil moisture available to sustain plant growth. Anthropogenic-driven dust emissions have dramatically increased across the globe (Webb and Pierre 2018) and in the United States (Neff et al. 2008) over last several decades. On-site and off-site costs associated with wind erosion exceeds US$8 billion y–1 Huszar and Piper 1986; USDA 1993). The combined off-site and on-site costs of erosion from agriculture in the United States is estimated to be about US$44 billion y–1, or about US$100 ha–1 (US$40 ac–1) of cropland and pasture (Pimentel et al. 1995), and US$44.5 billion in the European Union (Montanarella 2007). Cropland and livestock production contribute US$132.8 billion or 1% of the US gross domestic product. Erosion increases production costs by ~25% each year.