Battling wind erosion in Texas

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When 70-mile-an-hour winds sweep like express trains across the level Texas Panhandle, ''something is going to give,'' says Elmer Wells, a cotton-and-grain farmer.

To battle wind and other weather problems, he has added an arsenal of specialized cultivation equipment to the basic moldboard plow. For example, he avoids a lot of wind damage by coming in fast with a giant rakelike ''sand fighter'' to break up the smooth surface left by a heavy rain.

He also uses more permanent control measures. These include planting strips of wheat that serve as windbreaks for other crops growing in rows between the strips or building graded parallel terraces to channel excess rainwater safely into holding ponds.

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Such careful management on Mr. Wells's 2,150 acres enables him to hold onto as much soil and water as possible. He also pays a private company for weekly plant leaf and soil analyses. By monitoring each field's particular characteristics, he knows the precise amounts of fertilizers needed - and knows when it's time to rotate the field into a different crop.

Sound management practices, Wells says, translate directly into consistently higher yields and into hardier crops, better able to survive extreme conditions. The result is that Wells has earned enough in good years both to pay for proper soil conservation measures and to tide him over bad years.

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