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Resource Inventory

Wind Erosion

Gasoline Tractors, n.d., Suffield, AB.The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was a vivid example of wind erosion—unprotected topsoil blackened the skies, and drifted into ditches and along fence lines. The result was unproductive fields and ruined crops. Since then, the agriculture industry has made great progress in controlling and preventing wind erosion.

Nonetheless, agricultural land across Alberta is still subject to periods of drought and strong winds, particularly on open prairies.

During the recent drought of the 1980s, wind erosion damaged an estimated 900,000 hectares of agricultural soils in Alberta. Strong and sustained winds along with dry, bare soils contributed to serious topsoil loss. Valuable nutrients were also removed with the topsoil, reducing the soil's ability to produce crops. Coarser materials left behind by the wind, a reduced topsoil layer, a decrease in the root zone depth and in the soil's water holding capacity—all contributed to further reducing soil quality and productivity.

Factors that increase the risk of wind erosion include a sparse or absent plant cover, large fields and strong winds, and a loose, dry, smooth soil surface. Soil texture and structure also affect wind erosion risk. Loams, clay loams and silt loams generally resist wind erosion better because the soil clumps are harder to break down. Soils with more organic matter help to hold clumps together.

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Risk of Wind Erosion

Department of the Environment. State of the Environment Report, Terrestrial Ecosystems. Edmonton: n.p., 2001. With permission from Alberta Environment.




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