For decades, wind erosion has triggered dust and sand storms, buffeting Beijing and areas of northwestern China to the point of being hazardous to human health while rapidly eroding crop and livestock productivity. The EPIC (Environmental Policy Integrated Climate) field-scale simulation model was used to assess long-term effects of improved crop rotations and crop residue management practices on wind erosion in Wuchuan County in Inner Mongolia. Simulation results indicate that preserving crop stalks until land is prepared by zone tillage for the next year's crop in lieu of using them as a source of heating fuel or livestock fodder significantly reduces wind erosion by 60%. At the same time, grain and potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) yields were maintained or improved. Significant reductions in erosion, 35 to 46%, also resulted from delaying stalk removal until late January through late April. Yearly wind erosion was concentrated in April and May, the windiest months. Additionally, the use of alternative crop rotations resulted in differences in wind erosion, largely due to a difference in residue stature and quality and differences in biomass produced. As a result, altering current crop rotation systems by expanding corn (Zea mays L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and millet [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] and reducing potato and pea (Pisum sativum L.) production significantly reduced simulated wind erosion, thus diminishing the severity of dust and sand storms in northwestern China. Saving and protecting topsoil over time will sustain land productivity and have long-term implications for improving conditions of rural poverty in the region.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Water Science and Technology
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law