written by: Tarun Goel•edited by: Swagatam •updated: 6/7/2011
The dust bowl of the 1930s lasted for eight long years and almost destroyed the agriculture scene in America. The 1931 and 1934 dust storms were the strongest reasons behind American scientists and authorities finally beginning to take dust storm science seriously.
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The American Dust Bowl - 1931-1939
For eight long years, the American West was bombarded by the dust storms that affected every walk of life. The dust storms invaded American cities in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Texas and could appear at any time of the day. The region surrounding these cities became known as the Dust Bowl because the dust storms that engulfed this region so vehemently made it appear as if the entire land was a bowl full of sand, dust, and hot air. What started in 1931 grew so furious by 1934 that it became one of the most destructive natural calamities of all times.
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Damage to Agriculture
After the American Civil War ended, masses started accumulating in the Dust Bowl region, which was a desert land already. People started practicing European style agriculturein the region, which affected the soil cover and vegetation, and by the time 1930s arrived, the area was completely barren and non-productive. After the World War I, the world was reeling under the pressure of shortage of agricultural products. Even in America, food supplies were scarce; there were more mouths to feed and less food. The dust bowl region was projected as a region that could help in meeting the food grain requirements of Americans. However, greed to earn more resulted in damage to soil nutrients, soil cover and total loss of vegetation.
In early 1930s, drought hit the region and as there was no greenery around. The region started to heat and crumble against the pressure exerted by nature. The 1934 dust storm brought the worst. A strong dust storm emerged and it started to spread outside the Dust Bowl region. Top soil cover blew away from most of the fertile lands of the country resulting in low agricultural production for the next few years, and the situation grew dangerous as the count of people dying because of malnutrition increased exponentially.
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Lessons for the Future - Importance of Soil Cover
In 1935, the Federal Government passed an act that focussed on the importance of guarding soil cover, preventing soil erosion, and soil preservation. Dust Storm Science became a hot topic among the scientists and scholars because what Americans witnessed during those years was nothing less than a nightmare. Several soil conservation methods were developed and farmers across the country were asked to stick to fair agricultural practices.
If what resulted in the dust storms was short sightedness and greed, what happened post-1939 was long term planning and respect to nature. Various methods and awareness programs were devised by the government to raise awareness among the farmers. Even today, when agricultural practices have become modern and technologically sound, it is extremely important to preserve the soil because soil preservation only will help in giving good yield.
Today when the world is facing a resource crisis on all the fronts and global warming is threatening us, organic farming has helped us to a great extent to avoid dust storms and maintain a balance in the nature.
Optimized irrigation techniques, planting ground cover, creating windbreaks and growing cover crops have become important since then. Gardening also became a popular practice because it helps in holding the soil and helps in avoiding soil erosion. Planting trees, preserving greenery and minimizing use of plastics has become the need of the hour because if we want our coming generations not to experience another Dust Bowl episode, it becomes our duty to do our best to preserve nature.