Researchers examine way to undercut dust emissions

Jul 14, 2011

There is literally a way to undercut dust emissions in the very driest parts of the Pacific Northwest's Columbia Plateau region, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist.

Brenton Sharratt, research leader at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Land Management and Water Conservation Research Unit in Pullman, Wash., found that undercutting is a promising conservation tillage technique on fallow fields. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

An undercutter has wide, overlapping, V-shaped steel blades. Pulled by a tractor, the blades slice beneath the and gently lift and set down the uppermost layer in place. This severs weed roots without inverting the soil as a plow does.

Wind-blown or particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, known as PM10, are an air quality concern in the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the United States. Sharratt's experiments show that undercutting to a depth of 4 inches can reduce PM10 emissions by 30 to 70 percent compared to conventional tillage.

also harm farm productivity.

Undercutting is one of many possible practices being identified by Sharratt as cost-effective ways to reduce in the Columbia Plateau region. Both tillage and crop choices influence soil roughness, the size of soil clods, and the amount of post-harvest . The rougher the soil surface, the bigger the clods, and the more residue, the less susceptible the soil is to erosion by wind or water. Sharratt found that undercutter tillage creates an aerodynamically rougher soil surface and promotes retention of crop residue.

Read more about this research, which supports the USDA commitment to sustainable agriculture, in the July 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Sharratt and Guanglong Feng, with Washington State University's Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Pullman, have published pioneering papers on this subject in the journals Soil & Tillage Research and Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

Explore further: Romanian city opens plastic bottle bridge in litter protest

Provided by United States Department of Agriculture - Research, Education and Economics

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

ARS Explores Ways to Keep Carbon in the Soil

Dec 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are testing out alternative ways of tilling the soil and rotating crops to see if they can help wheat farmers in Oregon sequester more carbon ...

Analyzing long-term impacts of biofuel on the land

Feb 03, 2011

The growing development and implementation of renewable biofuel energy has considerable advantages over using declining supplies of fossil fuels. However, meeting the demands of a fuel-driven society may require utilizing ...

A model to measure soil health in the era of bioenergy

Nov 19, 2008

One of the biggest threats to today's farmlands is the loss of soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil organic matter (SOM) from poor land-management practices. The presence of these materials is essential as they do everything ...

Nitrogen applied

Oct 01, 2008

Combating soil erosion is a primary concern for agricultural producers in the United States, and many have incorporated conservation tillage systems in their effort to maintain a profitable crop output.

Recommended for you

'Shocking' underground water loss in US drought

4 minutes ago

A major drought across the western United States has sapped underground water resources, posing a greater threat to the water supply than previously understood, scientists said Thursday.

User comments : 0