Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version

June 2007


Published in Transactions of the ASABE Vol. 50(5): 1595-1601 2007. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.


Current soil conservation programs are built upon an established research legacy. Hugh H. Bennett, chief of the USDA Soil Conservation Service from 1935 to 1951, was instrumental in the establishment of a network of 35 soil conservation experiment stations (SCES). Research projects were initiated at the SCES in the 1930s to investigate the principal factors causing erosion and to identify the most effective and practical methods of controlling soil loss from agricultural areas. Information obtained from the SCES, and selected other locations, was assembled at the National Runoff and Soil Loss Data Center (NRSLDC) established on the campus of Purdue University in 1954. Data gathered at the NRSLDC was used to develop the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE). The USLE is recognized as one of the most important developments in soil and water conservation in the 20th century. The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation was released in 1997 as an updated, computerized version of the USLE. Several soil conservation practices currently used on agricultural areas were developed, refined, tested, and adopted at the SCES. Data obtained from the SCES have been an essential component in the development and testing of several erosion and water quality models. It is a tribute to the early soil conservation researchers that information they collected in previous decades continues to be used by successive generations of conservationists and modelers.