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ABSTRACT

Wischmeier, W. H., and Smith, D.D. 1978. Predicting rainfall erosion lossesa guide to
conservation planning. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Handbook No. 537.
The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) enables planners to predict the average rate of soil
erosion for each feasible alternative combination of crop system and management practices in
association with a specified soil type, rainfall pattern, and topography. When these predicted
losses are compared with given soil loss tolerances, they provide specific guidelines for
effecting erosion control within specified limits The equation groups the numerous
interrelated physical and management parameters that influence erosion rate under six major
factors whose site-specific values can be expressed numerically. A half century of erosion
research in many States has supplied information from which at least approximate values of
the USLE factors can be obtained for specified farm fields or other small erosion prone areas
throughout the United States. Tables and charts presented in this handbook make this
information readily available for field use. Significant limitations in the available data are
identified. The USLE is an erosion model designed to compute longtime average soil losses
from sheet and rill erosion under specified conditions. It is also useful for construction sites
and other nonagricultural conditions, but it does not predict deposition and does not compute
sediment yields from gully, streombank, and streambed erosion.
Keywords:
Conservation practices, conservation tillage, construction sites, crop canopy, crop sequence,
delivery ratios, erosion factors, erosion index, erosion prediction, erosion tolerances,
erosivity, gross erosion, minimum tillage, no-till, rainfall characteristics, rainfall data, residue
mulch, runoff, sediment, sediment delivery, slope effect, water quality, soil erodibility.
PREDICTING RAINFALL EROSION reports in professional journals. Some of
LOSSES the original charts and tables are revised to
A GUIDE TO CONSERVATION conform with additional research findings,
PLANNING and new ones are developed to extend the
usefulness of the soil loss equation. In
some instances, expanding a table or chart
Waiter H. Wischmeier and Dwight D. sufficiently to meet the needs for
Smith^ widespread field application required
projection of empirical factor relationships
PURPOSE OF HANDBOOK appreciablybeyond the physical limits of
Scientific planning for soil and water the data from which the relationships were
conservation requires knowledge of the derived. Estimates obtained in this manner
relations between those factors that cause are the best information available for the
loss of soil and water and those that help to conditions they represent. However, the
reduce such losses. Controlled studies on instances are identified in the discussions
field plots and small watersheds have of the specific erosion factors, tables, and
supplied much valuable information charts. Major resea
regarding these complex factor
interrelations. But the greatest possible
benefits from such research can be realized
only when the findings are converted to
sound practice on the numerous farms and
other erosion prone areas throughout the
country. Specific guidelines are needed for
selecting the control practices best suited
to the particular needs of each site. The
soil loss prediction procedure presented in
this handbook provides such guidelines.
The procedure methodically combines
research information from many sources to
develop design data for each conservation
plan. Widespread field experience for
more than two decades has proved it
highly valuable as a conservation planning
guide. The procedure is founded on an
empirical soil loss equation that is believed
to be applicable wherever numerical
values of its factors are available. Research
has supplied information from which at

least approximate values of the equation's


factors can be obtained for specific farm
fields or other small land areas throughout
most of the United States. Tables and
charts presented in this handbook make
this information readily available for field
use. This revision of the 1965 handbook
(64) updates the content and incorporates
new material that has been available
informally or from scattered research