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Science

How land management could be driving a new dust bowl.

Dust storm
Nathan Jones

The interview posted above is from SDPB's daily public affairs show, In the Moment with Lori Walsh.

If you've been caught up in swirls of dust buffeted by prairie winds lately, you might be wondering if we have entered another dust bowl of sorts.

National Resources Conservation Service State Soils Specialist Nathan Jones joins Lori Walsh on In the Moment. He explains that land management is partially to blame for this season's dusty conditions. He says growers should keep their soil covered.

"All tillage is destructive" says Jones. "That's the biggest thing with these dust storms lately. When you use tillage to manage your weeds or prep your seedbed you're just opening yourself for your soil to be blown away when the wind really kicks up. Here in South Dakota, the wind never, ever stops"

Jones says the issue is bigger than we realize and potentially bigger than we can afford. He says that during the twelve years he's lived in South Dakota, he's never seen the wind as consistent and unfriendly as it's been in the past month.

According to Jones, it takes anywhere from five hundred to one thousand years for an inch of topsoil to develop naturally. With weather becoming more erratic, Jones say it does not take long for a strong windstorm to blow that topsoil away.

"Mother nature doesn't monoculture. She's always got a big diversity of things growing out there. When possible we want to integrate livestock. One of the issues with farming is we take a lot of the biological matter off the soil surface when we harvest. If we can put livestock out there to redeposit some of that that's just going to benefit us in the long run." Says Jones.