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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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2003 Annual Performance Report
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1 - Introduction
2 - Table of Contents
3 - Goals 1 & 2
4 - Goal 3
5 - Goal 4
6 - Goal 5
7 - Goal 6
Goal 5

GOAL 5:  PROTECT AND ENHANCE THE NATION’S NATURAL RESOURCE BASE AND ENVIRONMENT

 

Analysis of Results:  This goal is the focus of ARS’ research on a wide range of environmental issues related to agriculture.  Under Goal 5, 14 Indicators are aligned under 7 Performance Measures.  Because of the adoption of a new ARS Strategic Plan 2003-2007, the Performance Measures and Indicators have changed dramatically from those last reported in the FY 2002 Annual Performance Report and FY 2003 to 2005 Annual Performance Plan.  In addition, the agency made a policy decision to have fewer and broader Indicators then in past Plans and Reports.  As the National Programs become more internally coherent, the agency will report more accomplishments achieved by collaborative research at multiple locations involving more than one scientific discipline.  Thus, we anticipate reporting fewer accomplishments, but accomplishments that are broader in scope that make greater contributions to American agriculture.  While it is not possible to report research accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in all 14 Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2003.  Thirty-one significant accomplishments are reported below.

 

OBJECTIVE 5.1:  Provide Science-Based Knowledge and Education To Improve the Management of Forest, Rangelands, and Pastures.

 

Performance Measure 5.1.1:  Develop ecologically-based information, technologies, germplasm, and management strategies that sustain agricultural production while conserving and enhancing the diverse natural resources found on rangelands and pasture lands.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2003, ARS will

 

provide increased understanding of genetic resources, genomics, and molecular processes of grasses, legumes, and other herbaceous plants that affect establishment, persistence, production and use so improved germplasm and cultivars can be released for pasture, harvested forages, turf, biofuels, rangeland restoration, and conservation.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Logan, Utah, used molecular techniques to identify genes associated with important characteristics including biodiversity in native and introduced species.  Using this research they released Star Lake Indian ricegrass germplasm for rangeland rehabilitation and Cashe Meadow bromegrass for forage production under limited irrigation.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research provides land managers with additional germplasm options that are affordable and ecologically appropriate for maintaining sustainable livestock production and ecosystem restoration.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Lincoln, Nebraska, in cooperation with scientists at the Universities of Nebraska and Kansas State, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other ARS locations, released two new intermediate wheatgrass cultivars, Beefmaker and Haymaker. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research provides producers in the Northern Great Plains with higher quality livestock forages for better animal performance.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Logan, Utah, have completed work on adapting two important legumes, kura clover and sainfoin, for use on dry range sites.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The research results in new affordable and appropriate germplasm options for rehabilitating and conserving rangelands, providing nitrogen for companion grasses which stay green through much of the dry season thus providing high quality forage and reducing fire hazard.  

 

provide forage and pasture management technologies and strategies that reduce inputs while improving livestock performance and sustaining the environment.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers at Brooksville, Florida, demonstrated that dredge materials from lake bottoms can be applied to bahiagrass pastures to enhance pasture establishment.  Lake-dredged materials’ concentrations of heavy metals and human pathogens are well below levels approved by EPA.  The dredged materials increased bahiagrass production by around 170 percent.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Bahiagrass is an important pasture grass across the Gulf Coast region but it can be difficult to establish in the region’s dry, low-fertility sandy soils.  Improving establishment of an excellent, uniform stand of bahiagrass increases the economic returns on pasture establishment costs while protecting the soil and water resources from erosion.  Using the dredge materials on pastureland also reduces the need for their disposal in landfills. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists from St. Paul, Minnesota and the University of Minnesota found that after planting alfalfa seeds the emerging seedlings were 15 percent smaller in old alfalfa fields than in fields where other crops had been grown.  They also found the age and the cultivar of the alfalfa in the previous crop had no apparent impact.  However, the later the reseeding took place in the growing season the more significant the impact on the alfalfa seedlings.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Failure to re-establish alfalfa from seeds after severe winters is a common problem thought to be due to autotoxicity caused by chemicals released from alfalfa plants of the previous stand.  Such failure results in economic losses from the money lost on ineffective reseeding and reduced forage production.  These losses can be reduced by improving reseeding success by moldboard plowing in the spring and planting as soon as possible.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS and university researchers in Beaver, West Virginia and Petersburg, Virginia, evaluated three hair sheep breeds (Barbados Blackbelly, Katahdin, and St. Croix) finished on low-cost hay diets supplemented with corn.  They found that Katahdin had a 25 percent higher average daily gain and utilized dietary protein 13 percent better than St. Croix and Barbados Blackbelly lambs.  To identify appropriate sheep breeds for the hot, humid South, ARS scientists at Booneville, Arkansas and the University of Arkansas compared the growth and carcass traits of three hair sheep breeds (Dorper, St, Croix and Katahdin) and one traditional wool breed (Suffork).  The best results in animal performance, carcass muscularity, quality for lambs weaned at 60 days, and managed on a finishing ration until harvest at 180 days of age came from the Dorper x St. Croix cross.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Hair sheep breeds have advantages in adapting to a variety of climates, utilizing low quality forages, reproducing prolifically, and not requiring shearing.  However, information is lacking on the performance of different hair sheep breeds at various locations. These results will aid limited resource farmers in selecting the best performing sheep breeds to reduce feeding costs and optimize profitability so they can take advantage of a fast growing niche markets. 

 

provide rangeland management technologies and strategies that reduce inputs while improving livestock performance and sustaining the environment including reducing the risks of wildfires, invasive weeds and other threats by stabilizing, restoring, and monitoring degraded rangeland in an affordable and sustainable manner.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Woodward, Oklahoma, over an eight year period analyzed the interrelationships between stocking rates and cattle (cow and calves), and economic performance on sand sagebrush rangeland.  They found that stocking rates that maximized calf production per cow or per acre did not maximize net economic returns and could result in environmental damage.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Since stocking rates are considered the most important factor in managing rangeland grazing on the Great Plains, these results indicating that lower stocking rates can promote both economic and environmental sustainability, will help ranchers develop more sustainable grazing management plans.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Cheyenne, Wyoming, working with the Bureau of Land Management, used an ultra light aircraft fitted with a high speed digital color camera and GIS system to survey 200,000 acres of rangelands at six locations and 50 miles of associated riparian zones.  They obtained high resolution photographs suitable for assessing several important indicators of ecological integrity including the amount of bare soil exposed by erosion. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Measuring bare ground with traditional on the ground methods over thousands of acres of rangelands is expensive and often inaccurate because sampling size is limited.  This research provides public and private land managers an option for gathering critical data for rangeland monitoring in a timely and affordable manner.  The electronic photographs are available in the field at the time of sampling so effectiveness can be assessed.  Following ecological evaluation of the data, the photos can become part of a permanent record for long-term monitoring of the site.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Tucson, Arizona, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Arizona and the U.S. Forest Service, have studied the effects of wildfire on the hydrology and soil sediment yield on semi-arid grasslands.  Using a rainfall simulator on different sites, they found that runoff immediately after a fire increased by 20 to 80 percent, and sediment yields by 400 to 2,200 percent depending on soils and geological structure.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This information on how different sites respond to fire will aid Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation Teams of the Federal land management agencies in targeting post-fire stabilization practices to the burned areas with the highest risk of runoff damage.  The findings will also help land managers plan scheduled burns to minimize adverse impacts on soil and water resources.  

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Las Cruces, New Mexico, used aerial photography to reevaluate water conservation practices which were installed in the 1930s at the Jornada Experimental Range.  When the practices were first evaluated over 50 years ago, they appeared to be ineffective, but the recent evaluation revealed that over time the practices proved much more effective than originally thought.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Public and private land managers need information on the effectiveness of conservation practices so investments in conservation can be made wisely.  Arid areas frequently respond slowly to ecosystem conservation management practices.  This Jornada research illustrates the need for long-term experiments in identifying effective land management practices.  

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Over a 12 year period, ARS scientists at Burns, Oregon, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and private landowners, studied impacts of clearing land of junipers.  Following tree cutting, herbaceous biomass increased by ten times.  During the last six years of the study, native perennial grass production doubled while noxious weed biomass decreased by 85 percent.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Western juniper woodlands have spread across eight million acres of the Northern Great Basin and negatively impacted livestock, water resources and ecological integrity.  On the drier sites, expensive reseeding is not required to restore the grass community when there is greater than two native bunch grass plants per square meter.  This information aids land mangers and ranchers in formulating affordable and effective juniper control programs for restoring rangeland health.

 

OBJECTIVE 5.2:  Provide Science-Based Knowledge and Education To Improve Quality and Management of Soil, Air, and Water Resources.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.1:  Develop the tools and techniques required to maintain and restore the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s watersheds and its surface and groundwater resources.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2003, ARS will

 

develop several cultural and management practices that maximize the environmental and economical benefits of water management and conservation practices in agricultural systems.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in Kimberly, Idaho; Parlier, California; and Lubbock and Bushland, Texas, have developed new experimental tools and management systems to cost-effectively reduce pumping costs and the volume of water applied for use in agricultural systems in the Western United States.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Development of these new experimental technologies and management systems provides producers with an inexpensive means of testing the efficiency and timing of delivering irrigation water.  These new tools and management systems, if widely adopted by producers, could save up to 20 percent of water currently used in production of some irrigated crops.  ARS scientists have also developed new high performance solar systems for delivering water to livestock in remote areas.  These low cost and reliable systems could mitigate the impact of drought when surface water sources dry up and improve the environment by providing a means for distributing livestock more evenly across pastures.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in Tifton, Georgia, in partnership with the University of Georgia, have documented that conservation buffer zones in wetlands next to agricultural fields can reduce the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that reach streams.  These studies showed that the restored riparian wetland buffer retained or removed at least 60 percent of the nitrogen and 65 percent of the phosphorus that entered from the adjacent manure application site in the Southeastern United States.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research provides NRCS with clear documentation of the environmental benefits derived from implementing Farm Bill funded conservation practices, such as conservation buffer zones developed by ARS, as they are requested to reduce soil loss and improve the Nation’s water quality.

 

quantify the fate and transport of pesticides and other synthetic organic chemicals in soil and aquatic environments.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in Columbus, Ohio; Ft. Collins, Colorado; Riverside, California; University Park, Pennsylvania; and Lincoln, Nebraska, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Service, have developed technology to detect, monitor, reduce, and remove agricultural pesticides, toxic elements, and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from the Nation’s surface and ground waters.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Development of these new experimental technologies can provide an effective means of protecting aquifers from perchlorate contamination and removing selenium and perchlorate from soil, wastewater, and aquifers if producers adopt the new biobarrier and cropping systems.  ARS scientists have recently improved the phosphorus index tool to include considerations for adding amendments to the soil and determining the effect of these amendments on reducing water soluble phosphorus in surface runoff.  This research significantly improves the ability of the NRCS to conduct phosphorus risk assessments throughout the Nation.  ARS scientists have documented how farmers can realize a $12 per acre cost savings if fertilizer recommendations include the nitrogen credit for corn grown in two year rotations with soybean on medium to fine textured soils.  For the irrigation farmer that still wants to produce continuous corn, there is a second alternative, which is to plant a winter wheat cover crop and apply only the nitrogen needed for the following corn crop.  Both of these solutions should improve water quality on millions of rainfed and irrigated croplands.

 

quantify the rate of soil loss and develop watershed models that determine the environmental impacts of sediments and other agricultural contaminants in surface and/or ground waters.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in Oxford, Mississippi, have watershed planning tools to assist the NRCS, the EPA, and State agencies to assess and identify sediment impaired water bodies and develop plans for meeting Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) as specified by the Clean Water Act of 1972.

 

IMPACTS/OUTCOME:  ARS scientists have recently developed a two pronged modeling approach to identify sediment movement in streams and other water bodies at the watershed scale.  The Annualized Agricultural Non-Point Source Pollutant (AnnAGNPS) watershed model first evaluates loadings within a watershed and the effect farming and other activities have on pollution control.  Then, the Conservational Channel Evolution and Pollutant Transport Systems (CONCEPTS) model predicts how channel evolution and pollutant loadings will be affected by bank erosion and failures, streambed buildup and degradation, and streamside riparian vegetation.  By combining the field measurements, geomorphic analysis, and the numerical models, agricultural specialists in the NRCS and planners in EPA are now able to make effective recommendations on the type and placement of conservation practices either in the watershed or the stream channel that will provide the greatest benefits in reducing the $16 billion annual damage associated with physical, chemical, and biological impairment with sediment flow costs about in North America.  

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in Tucson, Arizona; Boise, Idaho; West Lafayette, Indiana; Oxford, Mississippi; and Pullman, Washington, have cooperated to develop new technology to assist the NRCS, U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management in predicting surface runoff and soil erosion rates from croplands across the Nation and from burned Western forestlands.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS scientists and its partners have recently completed enhancements to the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) 2 model which is a more efficient and accurate method of estimating soil erosion on agricultural fields from surface runoff than previous versions.  This enhanced decision support system will help producers, extension agents, consultants, and the NRCS select the most economically feasible and environmentally sound combination of management practices to reduce soil erosion and sediment loss caused by water on croplands throughout the Nation.   ARS research is now helping the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management-Burn Areas Emergency Rehabilitation teams decide where and when emergency funding is needed to reestablish vegetation or install physical structures needed to protect the environment, streams, human life, property, or infrastructure from the ravages that are caused from flooding or soil erosion on public and private lands after either wild or prescribed fires in Western ecosystems.  This tool, if adopted, could potentially save millions of dollars and still protect critical areas, as only the burned areas that are in critical need of immediate restoration would receive the limited funding that is available. 

 

Performance Measure 5.2.2:  Develop agricultural practices that maintain or enhance soil resources, thus ensuring sustainable food, feed, and fiber production while protecting environmental quality.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2003, ARS will develop practices to remediate degraded soils.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists from Beltsville, Maryland, in cooperation with the EPA, have developed a method using high iron content biosolids to reduce the bioavailability of lead in contaminated soils.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The method reduced lead bioavailability in contaminated soils by 69 percent, thus greatly reducing health risk to children through inadvertent soil ingestion.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.3:  Develop approaches that mitigate the impact of poor air quality on crop production and provide scientific information and technology to maintain or enhance crop and animal production while controlling emissions that reduce air quality or destroy the ozone layer.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2003, ARS will

 

develop alternatives to methyl bromide for preplant fumigation.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The use of the soil fumigant methyl bromide will be phased out by the year 2005.  Methyl bromide has been used by the tree, vine, and rose nurseries to control soilborne pathogens, pests, and weeds in compliance with California regulations governing certified nurseries.  ARS scientists at the Water Management Research Unit, Parlier, California, found that several treatments, including one 3-dichloropropene, chloropicrin, and iodomethane, provided similar control of parasitic nematodes as methyl bromide does down to a depth of five feet.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This work may benefit nurseries by leading to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s approval and certification of new soil treatment practices.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  New apparatus will enable safer application of soil fumigants.  The loss of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant will result in serious disease and pest problems in fields and reduce crop yield for many commodities, including strawberry, pepper, and tomato.  Many alternatives to methyl bromide face regulatory issues regarding worker exposure to pesticides in the field.  ARS scientists at the Subtropical Plant Pathology Research Unit, Fort Pierce, Florida, conducted field tests of a new apparatus that will allow growers to apply fumigants after workers have vacated the fields. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The research will eliminate many of the regulatory problems regarding worker exposure and will allow fumigation under previously established plastic mulched beds without the use of a more costly drip irrigation system. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Nematode resistant cover crops provide higher tomato yield.  The loss of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant will result in serious disease and pest problems in fields and reduce crop yield for many commodities including strawberry, pepper and tomato.  ARS scientists at the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, have conducted a field study that evaluated nematode resistant cover crops’ ability to suppress the nematode population in tomato cropping system.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These cover crops provide tomato yields equivalent to or greater than treatments using methyl bromide at significantly lower costs. 

 

develop alternatives to methyl bromide for postharvest fumigation.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Quarantine research allows shipment of peaches and nectarines to Chile without fumigation.  Walnut husk fly is a pest of peaches and nectarines in the United States and subject to quarantine restrictions in many countries of the world, including Chile.  ARS scientists at Parlier, California, conducted research on stone fruits and walnut husk flies.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  In April 2003, the Government of Chile declared shipments of peaches and nectarines as free of walnut husk fly based on this research.  A new additional market to South America, currently valued at $13 million annually, is now available for stone fruits exported from California. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The parasitic wasp shows promise in helping control the olive fruit fly.  The olive fruit fly was recently introduced into California; it has destroyed some coastal olive industries and threatens much of the olive industry in California.  Cage tests and small releases of the parasitic wasp Psytallia cf. concolor, reared by USDA-APHIS, PPQ, and Moscamed in Guatemala, were conducted in six regions of California to determine the effect of biological control on olive fruit fly.  Results of these tests by ARS scientists in Parlier, California, show that 39 percent of the susceptible olive fruit fly larvae were killed when the wasp completed its life cycle in the host.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This biological control agent has great potential for economical control of the olive fruit fly in California.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Sweet potato in Hawaii is host to West Indian sweet potato weevil and sweet potato vine borer, pests that are quarantined on the Unites States mainland.  Although methyl bromide (MB) treatment is effective and is accepted as a quarantine treatment, the Montreal Protocol mandated phase-out makes its continued use uncertain for even quarantine uses.  Also, MB fumigation is not readily available in the part of Hawaii where the sweet potatoes are grown.  ARS scientists in Hilo, Hawaii, working with Hawaii Pride, LLC, a local quarantine irradiation facility, developed dose/mortality data for the two pests, which allowed for the approval of radiation at 400 gray dose as an accepted quarantine treatment for sweet potatoes for the Unites States mainland.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS’ research helps ensure the agricultural diversity in Hawaii following the decline of its sugar and pineapple industries.

 

develop tools to predict wind erosion of soil under a variety of conditions.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists from Manhattan, Kansas, have produced a wind erosion prediction model known as the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS).

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The model is being transferred to the NRCS where it will be used to help producers and land managers select best management practices to control wind erosion and emission of fine particulate matter.  In addition, the scientists have produced wind erosion educational materials on video and digital video disk that will be distributed to each NRCS State office.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.4:  Develop agricultural practices and decision-support strategies that allow producers to take advantage of beneficial effects and mitigate adverse impacts of global change.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2003, ARS will

 

assess potential risks and benefits to agricultural systems that may arise from global change, and develop agricultural management practices and decision support strategies that allow producers to take advantage of beneficial effects and mitigate adverse impacts.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Because crop plants evolved and were domesticated at a time when the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and certain gaseous pollutants were less than they are now, recent and projected increases in these gases are likely to affect crop physiology, growth, and yield.  ARS scientists at Gainesville, Florida, found that sugarcane grown at CO2 concentrations projected for later in the 21st century had lower water use and thus delayed the onset of severe drought.  Similarly, ARS scientists at Phoenix, Arizona, found that sorghum grown in CO2 enriched conditions used less water and had greater drought tolerance.  At Raleigh, North Carolina, ARS scientists discovered that increased ozone offsets the beneficial effects of increased CO2 on soybean yields.  A five year study by ARS scientists at Ft. Collins, Colorado, demonstrated that increasing CO2 enhanced production of the shortgrass steppe by 38 percent, but forage quality decreased. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Results of these studies demonstrate that crop and livestock producers will see both benefits and detriments to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.  Although growth, yield, and drought tolerance of crops may increase due to increasing CO2, gains may be reduced by other gases or decreases in commodity quality.  Producers will need to modify varietal selections or production practices to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages.

 

identify processes that control the rate at which agricultural systems release and absorb greenhouse gases, and develop agricultural management practices that contribute to reductions in the Nation’s net greenhouse gas emissions.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Plants remove CO2, an important greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and store it in their tissues.  If crop residues are incorporated into soil (“sequestered”) and managed properly, the captured carbon may stay there for years instead of contributing to global warming in the atmosphere.  ARS scientists in Coshocton, Ohio, showed that reduced or no-till practices increased carbon sequestration and improved general soil quality.  At Auburn, Alabama, ARS scientists working on tillage research also demonstrated greater increases in crop productivity and soil carbon storage under CO2-enriched conditions expected later in this century.   ARS scientists at Morris, Minnesota, showed that residue management practices that allow corn stover to remain in the field for longer periods of time can increase soil carbon.  At Ames, Iowa, ARS scientists demonstrated that corn cropping systems sequester more than soybean crops.  The Ames scientists also demonstrated that introducing diverse plant species onto fallow agricultural land can increase soil organic carbon and carbon sequestration. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Agricultural practices can be modified to increase the amount of carbon stored in soil by crop residues.  Carbon captured by plants and sequestered in soil offsets carbon emitted by the burning of fossil fuels and thus potentially reduces the rate of global warming.  In addition, adding carbon to soil has broad benefits to soil, water, and air quality by increasing the soil’s retention of nutrients and water, and decreasing wind and water erosion.  Producers that adapt practices conducive to carbon sequestration can provide this array of environmental benefits, which helps meet national and international environmental goals.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.5:  Develop management practices, treatment technologies, and decision tools for effective use of animal manure and selected industrial and municipal byproducts to improve soil properties and enhance crop production while protecting the environment.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2003, ARS will

 

develop management practices and treatment technologies to reduce nutrient losses from animal manure to the environment.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists from Fayetteville, Arkansas, developed a poultry litter treatment technology, using alum (aluminum sulfate) that reduces ammonia emissions in poultry  houses and prevents phosphorus contamination of surface waters when the litter is applied to crops and pastures.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This technology is currently being used to protect poultry health and environmental quality for approximately 10 percent of the broilers produced in the United States.  Producers can receive financial assistance through NRCS to use the technology for environmental quality protection.

 

develop management practices and treatment technologies to reduce gaseous and particulate matter emissions from animal production operations.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists from Florence, South Carolina, have developed a system of treatment technologies that improves liquid-solid separation, reduces emissions of ammonia and nuisance odors, captures nutrients, and kills harmful pathogens.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The system has undergone full scale testing at a 4,400-head swine finishing facility in North Carolina as part of the Smithfield Foods-Premium Standard Farms-North Carolina Attorney General Agreement.  The system has passed all the performance requirements in testing and has been designated as an “environmentally superior technology.”

 

Performance Measure 5.2.6:  Develop agricultural and decision support systems that assist in increasing the efficiency of agricultural enterprises and achieve economic and environmental sustainability.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2003, ARS will develop new production practices and decision support tools that increase profitability and improve environmental quality.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Use of a no-tillage, legume cover crop management system reverses yield decline in date palm orchards.  Date palm orchards in California were experiencing continuous declines in growth and yield.  ARS researchers at Beltsville, Maryland, helped identify the problem to be the result of soil compaction that led to salt accumulation, poor drainage, and low soil fertility.  A management system consisting of no-tillage and the legume cover crop, “Lana Vetch,” was implemented to reduce soil compaction and add nutrients. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  After four years, growth and yield declines were reversed, and both yield and fruit quality increased by more than 10 percent while chemical input was reduced and soil quality improved.   

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Time to produce “maps” for precision agricultural applications was greatly reduced.  Past research has demonstrated that remote sensing and other spatial data can be utilized to more precisely manage nutrients and control pests.  However, the processing of these data into information useful for growers and their consultants has been laborious and time consuming, thus, limiting the use of these technologies on farm.  ARS researchers at Mississippi State, Mississippi and their university and industry colleagues have developed new software to generate field scouting maps for pest control in cotton.  What used to take up to an hour or more for several hundred acres can now be completed in less than a minute for several thousand acres.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The near real time delivery of information permits timely changes in management, thus reducing input costs without compromising yield.  This accomplishment greatly improves producer ability to utilize precision agriculture technology for pest management.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Producers are challenged to integrate a vast array of information to make management decisions that are affected by numerous factors including some, such as weather, that are outside of their control.  A dynamic cropping systems approach, which is a strategy of annual crop sequencing that optimizes crop and soil use options and the attainment of production, economic, and resource conservation goals, is being developed by ARS researchers in Mandan, North Dakota.   Research on multiple crop sequences coupled with economic information, including farm program affects (e.g., loan deficiency payments), is part of the analysis.  It is based on flexibility to respond to markets, predicted weather, and other factors rather than a set rotation.     

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  A dynamic cropping systems approach provides producers with management capability and capacity for developing their own long-term sustainable crop, soil, and land use systems.

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