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Windblown dust influenced by conventional and undercutter tillage within the Columbia Plateau, USA

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Exceedance of the US Environmental Protection Agency national ambient air quality standard for PM10 (particulate matter ≤10 µm in aerodynamic diameter) within the Columbia Plateau region of the Pacific Northwest US is largely caused by wind erosion of agricultural lands managed in a winter wheat-summer fallow rotation. Land management practices, therefore, are sought that will reduce erosion and PM10 emissions during the summer fallow phase of the rotation. Horizontal soil flux and PM10 concentrations above adjacent field plots (>2 ha), with plots subject to conventional or undercutter tillage during summer fallow, were measured using creep and saltation/suspension collectors and PM10 samplers installed at various heights above the soil surface. After wheat harvest in 2004 and 2005, the plots were either disked (conventional) or undercut with wide sweeps (undercutter) the following spring and then periodically rodweeded prior to sowing wheat in late summer. Soil erosion from the fallow plots was measured during six sampling periods over two years; erosion or PM10 loss was not observed during two periods due to the presence of a crust on the soil surface. For the remaining sampling periods, total surface soil loss from conventional and undercutter tillage ranged from 3 to 40 g m-2 and 1 to 27 g m-2 while PM10 loss from conventional and undercutter tillage ranged from 0·2 to 5·0 g m-2 and 0·1 to 3·3 g m-2, respectively. Undercutter tillage resulted in a 15% to 65% reduction in soil loss and 30% to 70% reduction in PM10 loss as compared with conventional tillage at our field sites. Therefore, based on our results at two sites over two years, undercutter tillage appears to be an effective management practice to reduce dust emissions from agricultural land subject to a winter wheat-summer fallow rotation within the Columbia Plateau.
Sharratt, B.S. , Feng, G.
Includes references
Earth surface processes and landforms 2009 Aug., v. 34, no. 10
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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