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Critical standing crop residue amounts for wind erosion control in the inland Pacific Northwest, USA

Pi, Huawei, Webb, Nicholas P., Huggins, David R., Sharratt, Brenton
Catena 2020 v.195 pp. 104742
Brassica napus, Cicer arietinum, Triticum aestivum, agricultural land, algorithms, canola, chickpeas, crop residues, equations, erosion control, model validation, simulation models, soil, soil erosion models, wind direction, wind erosion, wind tunnels, winter wheat, Pacific States
Crop residue is an important factor influencing wind erosion of cultivated soils. Establishing soil surface protection afforded by standing crop residue is critical for land managers seeking to reduce or prevent soil loss by wind erosion and the impacts of blowing dust from agricultural lands. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effect of standing residue on soil wind erosion in the inland Pacific Northwest (iPNW), USA, and test the performance of the plant factor algorithm of the Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender (APEX) and Revised Wind Erosion Equation (RWEQ) models in influencing soil loss. The effect of standing winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), spring canola (Brassica napus L.), and chickpea (Cicer arietinum) residue on wind erosion, remaining from major commodity crops in the region, was tested in a laboratory wind tunnel using four levels of residue density. The impact of standing residue in controlling wind erosion was compared and analyzed in terms of residue density and their respective frontal area index. Our results show that residue at a density characteristic of the production environment (110 standing residue elements m⁻¹ for winter wheat, 20 standing elements m⁻¹ for canola, and 16 standing elements m⁻¹ for chickpea) provided significant protection to the soil surface from wind erosion. Soil loss at this level of residue density was reduced by 73.3, 53.4, and 60.9% for respectively winter wheat, spring canola, and chickpea (frontal area indexes are 0.172, 0.104, and 0.026 respectively) compared with a surface without residue. The soil surface was found to be at significant risk from wind erosion when residue densities of the three crop types were <50% of the typical production amounts. Although not consistently significant, soil loss decreased as wind direction shifted from parallel to perpendicular with the standing residue row. The APEX model adequately simulated winter wheat and spring canola residue protection but had low accuracy in representing chickpea residue effects relative to the wind tunnel experiments. In contrast, the RWEQ model appeared inadequate in simulating soil loss for the winter wheat and canola treatments but adequately represented chickpea residue effects. Differences in model accuracy for different crop types must be considered by producers and managers to determine whether model information used to select practices to control wind erosion are likely to result in under- or over-protection of soil resources.