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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Atmospheric Pollutants and Trace Gases

Agricultural Dust Production in Standard and Conservation Tillage Systems in the San Joaquin Valley


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 4, p. 1260-1269
    Received: Sept 7, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): jbbaker@ucdavis.edu
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  1. J. B. Baker *,
  2. R. J. Southard and
  3. J. P. Mitchell
  1. Department of Vegetable Crops and Weed Science, University of California, Davis, CA 95616


The negative health effects of repeated dust exposure have been well documented. In California's San Joaquin Valley, agricultural operations may contribute substantially to airborne particulates. We evaluated four management systems to assess impacts on dust production and soil properties for a cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.)–tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) rotation: standard tillage with (STCC) and without (STNO) cover crop, and conservation tillage with (CTCC) and without (CTNO) cover crop. Gravimetric analysis of total dust (TD, <100-μm aerodynamic diameter) and respirable dust (RD, 4-μm aerodynamic diameter) samples collected in the plume generated by field implements showed that dust concentrations for CTNO treatments were about one-third of their STNO counterparts for both cumulative TD and RD measured throughout the two-year rotation, primarily due to fewer in-field operations. The TD and RD production for STNO and STCC was comparable, whereas the CTCC system produced about twice as much TD and RD as CTNO. Energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) analyses showed absolute increases of 8 and 39% organic fragments in STCC and CTCC over STNO and CTNO, respectively, while organic fragments in the TD increased by 6% in both cover crop treatments. Soil C content was positively correlated with clay content and increased by an average of 0.12 and 0.07% in the cover crop and non-cover crop treatments, respectively, although soil C for each treatment showed a distinct response to a field texture gradient. While dust emissions show an immediate decrease due to fewer field operations for the conservation tillage treatments, long-term sampling is necessary to determine the effects that increased aggregation through organic matter additions may have on dust production.

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