Controlling erosion in the Missouri River Basin



The most pervasive conservation concern in the vast 510,000 square mile Missouri River basin in the western United States is excessive rates of wind erosion during dry periods, though conservation efforts can help control erosion, according to a 30 August report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Conservation Effects Assessment Project. During some dry years, rates of wind erosion—which include nitrogen and phosphorus losses—can be higher than 4 tons per acre on 12% and higher than 2 tons per acre on 20% of the approximately 148,000 square miles of cultivated cropland, notes the report Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Missouri River Basin. Between 2003 and 2006, conservation practices, including reducing tillage and building terraces, yielded about a 75% reduction in sediment runoff and phosphorus loss and a 68% reduction in nitrogen loss, according to the report. About 15 million acres in the region—18% of cultivated cropland—are considered to have either a high or moderate level of need for conservation treatment, and efforts in those areas in particular could result in additional reductions in sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen loss, the report states.