Cultivation of the cool-season grass prairie and shrub-steppe on the Columbia Plateau, a mixed Mediterranean/frozen soil region, began in the 1880’s. This semi-arid region is characterized by very fertile, highly erodible silt-loam soils, developed on steep slopes over Miocene basalts. Early farming practices led to excessive soil loss. Sixty years of soil and water conservation efforts have slowed soil loss from fields and new technology promises to provide nearly 100 per cent soil and water conservation. Between 1997 and 2000, direct seed farming increased from zero to 50,000 acres on the Columbia Plateau. Hydrological research at CPCRC has traditionally used small plot research to answer questions concerning infiltration, overland flow, and erosion processes. Since 1995, hydrological and soil erosion projects have been initiated to evaluate cropping practices influence on infield processes, channel initiation and development, sediment transport, and stream-water quality. Results from this research will provide a substantive metric of the difference in soil and water loss between examples of no till and conventional inversion tillage management systems, and provide data for use in existing models to evaluate a range of management options and the subsequent influence on 3rd and 4th order stream-morphology and associated ecological system development.
Research Teams Associated with CPCRC Hydrology Projects:
Cooperators: Participants in mutually beneficial monitoring and research efforts include individual producers and governmental agencies. Agency participation includes: Umatilla Soil and Water Conservation District, Oregon Departments of – Agriculture, - Environmental Quality, - Water Resources; Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; and US-EPA, USDI-BoR, USDA-FS, and USDA-NRCS.
Wildhorse Creek watershed is a major tributary of the Umatilla River, a sub-basin of the Columbia River basin. Ninety-four percent of the Wildhorse watershed is cropland, approximately 475 km 2 (118,000 ac), most of which is rain fed. The purpose of this research project is to contribute to the TMDL/WQMP monitoring effort, to establish a set of baseline data (flow, sediment, and nitrogen data), and to evaluate the cumulative effects of conservation programs and projects and in Wildhorse Creek watershed. Since 2003, data has been collected from four 1st order ephemeral drainages, and one hillslope, instrumented with flumes, weirs, and storm sediment samplers to quantify soil and water loss.