LAND IMPRINTING SPECIFICATIONS FOR CONTROLLING THE DUST HAZARD ALONG HIGHWAYS
June 3, 2003
Robert M. Dixon, PhD
The no-till method for seeding of plants called land imprinting has been under development in Tucson , Arizona since 1976. Through ecological weed control, land imprinting has restored perennial grasses to 20,000 hectares of degraded rangeland in southern Arizona since 1980. Imprinting accelerates the secondary succession of plant types past the weed stage through superior control of rainwater at the soil surface. Early imprinters were massive machines with large diameter rollers that were designed to operate on the rocky, brushy terrain of southwestern deserts. Newly designed imprinters have smaller diameter rollers and are easier to transport. Some can work on 2:1 slopes and even steeper. Simple seeders, directly driven from the imprinting roller, deliver complex mixes of native seeds to the roller top where they are carried forward, dropped on the soil surface and then imbedded in the imprint surfaces. V-shaped imprints funnel resources downward where they can work in concert to germinate seeds and establish seedlings. Based on more than 2 decades of field experience, land imprinting specifications have been developed for ecological restoration and sustainable agriculture. These include general imprinter and seeder design specifications that will help to insure success of revegetation projects. Also, experienced fabricators can use these specifications as a guide for constructing state-of-the-art seeding imprinters.
Beyond the arid regions of Arizona and California , the theory and practice of land imprinting are almost terra incognita, even though these advancements in science and technology have great potential for restoring the biogeography of severely degraded terrain, globally.
Land imprinting excels in holding natural and applied resources in place to germinate seeds, establish seedlings and grow vegetation. Thus wind erosion and the associated dust hazard can be all but eliminated by imprinting and the subsequent establishment of adapted vegetation in degraded land areas adjacent to and upwind from highways. The dust hazard is especially critical along I-10 that stretches from East to West through the degraded arid rangelands of southern Texas , New Mexico , Arizona and California . On I-10 in these states, a dark cloud of dust arises on windy days at certain points blocking the vision of motorists traveling at high speeds. Such dust storms can contribute to or cause catastrophic multiple vehicular crashes causing injuries, loss of life, and much property damage.
This wind erosion problem can be greatly reduced or eliminated by revegetating the barren or near-barren land areas adjacent to and upwind from the highway. At the most critical sites for severe dust storms the imprinter seeding treatment can be combined with contour ridging/diking to provide a greater macroscale of hydraulic roughness for intercepting any runoff that may occur from imprints during the infrequent storm events of very high intensity and long duration. These contours are especially beneficial on sloping land and should be spaced at 100 to 500-foot intervals, the interval decreasing with slope steepness. The contour ridges can be created with a border disk of the type commonly used in surface irrigation of agricultural lands. Arid lands are usually soft enough to accomplish the ridging and imprinting each in a once-over operation. However, in the rare situation when hard soils are encountered, soil can be lightly ripped before the ridging and imprinting operations.
The Imprinting Foundation
1616 E. Lind Road
Tucson, AZ 85719
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