Honors Gallery

Development and transfer of the wind erosion prediction system

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2014

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The Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) incorporates more than 65 years of advancements in wind erosion science and takes advantage of newer computer technology.

WEPS technology allows users, ranging from government agencies and researchers to individual farmers, to apply research findings to specific tracts of land to assess wind erosion soil loss. A completely packaged model, WEPS combines science-based computer code and extensive databases with a simple-to-use interface that provides the means to input a basic field description, calculate soil loss, and display outputs. By varying management inputs, the user can compare alternatives to develop the best strategies for wind erosion control.

The first attempt to model agricultural wind erosion was the 1965 Wind Erosion Equation (WEQ), which was based largely on work from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). However, WEQ had severe limitations in adapting to environments beyond the Great Plains and was cumbersome to use. The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) requested that ARS develop a replacement for WEQ.

Released to the NRCS and general public in 2010, WEPS is installed on 15,000 computers in 2,500 NRCS field offices nationwide, and over 560 copies have been downloaded by users in 31 countries.

The ARS WEPS Core Team developed the model primarily for NRCS and led the technology transfer effort, spending a majority of their time on WEPS over the life of the project. A significant part of the technology transfer was the conversion of wind erosion technical research into a simpleto-use computer model for any level of user. This team not only converted past research into WEPS algorithms, but also conceived an extensive research program to specifically develop equations and databases for WEPS.

WEPS technology was transferred to NRCS by ARS through cooperative agreements and progress meetings. Later in its development, 12 NRCS U.S. regional testing sessions were held to obtain feedback. WEPS training sessions were also held at 12 professional society meetings and internationally in Canada and China, as well as numerous regional hands-on, two-day training workshops specifically for NRCS personnel. The model is available for public download, and it is made known to users through peer-reviewed publications, society presentations and workshops, and personal recommendations.

Recipients of WEPS technology include national, state, and local governmental agencies, universities, managers of disturbed lands (e.g., construction and mining), international users, and individual farmers. Released to the NRCS and general public in 2010, WEPS is installed on 15,000 computers in 2,500 NRCS field offices nationwide, and over 560 copies have been downloaded by users in 31 countries. NRCS considers WEPS an essential tool for planning as well as soil quality and energy efficiency assessments. From October 2012 to June 2013 alone, NRCS applied WEPS for planning cropland conservation practices on 4.7 million U.S. acres.