Science Rocks U; Whiteface, Texas
Team Members: Alison DeBusk, Robin Hicks, Haley Roberts and Laura Wilbanks (Team Advisor)
The “Dust Bunnies” collected airborne topsoil over 775 square miles, measuring 500 particles per square centimeter, confirming a critical community issue - soil erosion. The team hypothesized that better farming methods and advanced technology in agronomy would protect topsoil. A combination of materials, science and plowing techniques were applied to 4,000 acres of cotton fields. The team used GPS systems, iPad apps and tractors engineered for better tillage. Superabsorbent polymers and nanoclays were added to soil in various ratios, and plowed traditionally and in minimum tillage. The loss of topsoil was measured by massing soil samples before and after months of experimentation. The most effective method of conservation was attained by placing polymers throughout minimum tillage fields, decreasing soil loss by 35 percent. As a result of virtual teamwork from two areas of the state, 2,000 acres were protected, with the potential of conserving half a million acres of topsoil in the future.