Controlling Wind Erosion

The Great Plains Dust Bowl of the 1930's was caused by a combination of severe drought and a lack of farming methods in place to prevent wind erosion. We haven't seen anything like it since, but wind erosion still causes economical and agricultural damage.

DeAnn Presley is an associate professor of agronomy at Kansas State University. She says the most vulnerable fields have dry, sandy soil with little vegetation production. The hot spots are usually close to a road or on a hill where the prevailing winds can easily pick it up.

Presley says one way to keep your soil in place is to plant crop residue through cross-vegetation.

"They might plant strips of a taller vegetation and strips of a shorter vegetation. Wheat is a very effective small grain. The residue isn't that tall, but it's very closely spaced and very effective at stopping wind erosion, she says. "The vegetative strips might be planted alternating taller residues and shorter residues across the field."

Wind barriers such as a snow fence, or trees and shrubs planted in the area will also help. If you have an open field that's suddenly blowing dust everywhere, emergency tillage is a temporary solution.

"That's kind of a last resort, but if there's no time to do anything else, that is something that's very effective. People will modify a chisel in a way that you can leave some roughness," says Presley. "You don't have to rough up the whole surface, it might only have to be done on the highest spots or it might only have to be done on a corner of the field where the wind erosion kind of starts."

Learn more about controlling wind erosion