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Beyond the Dust Bowl: Challenges in Soil and Water Conservation

Have agricultural management efforts begun in the desperation of the Dust Bowl brought us to where we need to be tomorrow?

The lessons of history and the future of research are explored in a new book, Soil and Water Conservation Advances in the United States, edited by Drs. Ted Zobeck and William Schillinger, leading experts in the field of soil and water conservation. The book is published by the Soil Science Society of America, the professional home for over 6,000 members dedicated to advancing the field of soil science.

Questions about the environmental footprint of farming make this book required reading. Approximately 580 million hectares of the continental United States (62% of the total land area) are used for agriculture—for food, fiber, feed, biofuels, and pasture. This land also provides critical ecosystem functions such as nutrient and water cycling, decomposition and detoxification of wastes, and a sink for carbon and greenhouse gases.

Authors from each region of the continental United States describe the history of soil and water conservation in the last century, the current situation, and suggest the outlook for the future, in an easy to follow format. Each chapter is devoted to a specific geographical region, exploring how agricultural production practices must change in future years to address the newest challenges. Major issues, research, recommendations, and government programs are covered. Present research challenges are reviewed, and contributors visualize how agricultural production practices will change in future years to address the newest challenges in soil and water conservation.

“Drs. Ted Zobeck and William Schillinger are to be commended for the superb job they did in recruiting truly outstanding authors who are at the forefront of research in soil and water conservation,” says Gary A. Peterson, 2008 President of the Soil Science Society of America. “Their expertise brings great credibility to this work.”

Ted M. Zobeck is a Lead Scientist in the USDA, Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research Unit of the Cropping Systems Research Laboratory in Lubbock, TX. His research is focused on optimizing the productivity and sustainability of agricultural management systems. Dr. Zobeck is especially interested in assessing the effects of soil management on soil quality for agricultural outcomes and quantifying the impact of wind erosion on air quality and soil productivity.

William F. Schillinger is a professor in the Crop and Soil Sciences Department at Washington State University. His research focus is on dryland cropping systems and soil management to reduce wind erosion, wheat stress physiology, improvement of precipitation storage in soil, and water use efficiency of wheat. He serves as director of the WSU Dryland Research Station at Lind and as principal investigator of the Columbia Plateau PM10 Project.

The book, Soil and Water Conservation Advances in the United States, is 320 pages, hardcover, and available for $60 from SSSA at, or call 608-268-4960 or email

Sara Uttech | Newswise Science News
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