Fugitive Dust Prevention Tips

What is fugitive dust?

Dust is particulate matter (PM) that consists of very small particles. Fugitive dust is PM suspended in the air primarily from soil that has been disturbed by wind or other activities. When PM is inhaled, it can travel easily into the lungs and cause respiratory illness, lung damage and even premature death to sensitive individuals.

Arizona’s climate contributes to the fugitive dust problem. Long, hot summers allow the soil to dry out thoroughly  and, if the surface is disturbed, the soil may have months  to blow away before normal rainfall can again saturate and hold it in place. In addition, many regions in Arizona are prone to high winds, which contributes to a growing problem.

To address fugitive dust concerns Arizona has rules in place that require dust mitigation to occur in all industries including agriculture.  With an increase in new agricultural businesses coming to Arizona, it is imperative to be aware of  the impacts of dust generating activities and the best management practices to reduce dust emissions | Learn More >

Tips to Prevent Fugitive Dust

  • Maintain Vegetative Cover. Use cover crops in between tree rows and in between crop seasons or maintain plant residues. Do not leave open areas uncovered.
  • Create Wind Barriers. Construct fences/structures or plant woody vegetation perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction to reduce wind speeds and capture larger particles.
  • Stabilize Access Roads. Apply crust forming chemicals, add aggregate cover, and/or pave access roads and storage areas that are heavily traveled  and left bare.  Have a water truck on site for daily maintenance of roads  during heavy traffic times or high wind days.
  • Maintain Rough Surfaces. If clearing of vegetation is absolutely needed to plant the area, keep the soil surface rough with large clods. This keeps particle size large and reduces fugitive dust potential.
  • Limit Field/Soil Disturbance Activity. Implement practices such as conservation tillage, precision farming, chemical irrigation, and combining tractor operations to reduce the number of passes in a given crop area. 
  • Reduce Vehicle Speeds and Restrict Vehicle Access. Lower speeds and less opportunity for vehicle travel across agricultural properties reduces soil disturbance and fugitive dust potential.
  • Water. When possible apply water to fields before planting/harvest and install irrigation  systems first for water application early in field preparation processes.