2007 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
We will investigate integrated approaches to increase farm income while addressing environmental concerns. Objective 1 quantifies the physical effect impacts of perennial grasses (seed production fields, grassed waterways, and restored native range) and conservation practices (direct seeding, nutrient management planning, and residue management) on water, soil, plant, and animal resources. Objective 2 will assess the potential use of native grass biomass and crop residues for conversion to energy products and how these components fit into conservation management plans that receive income from conservation program payments. Objective 3 will integrate research results using world-wide-web and GIS tools to develop farming, conservation planning, and policy decision support products to predict the impacts of alternative production strategies and agricultural policies on the sustainability of PNW agriculture.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
The impacts of grass seed and other agricultural systems on water quality and economic sustainability over a range of Pacific Northwest environmental conditions will be determined. Emphasis is placed on how agricultural practices such as disturbance and residue management and conservation technologies including direct seeding, buffer strips, and riparian areas affect soil chemical and biological components that can impact surface and groundwater quality and wildlife habitat. The value of crop residues and native grasses in riparian areas and buffer strips will be assessed as dual-use biofuel feedstocks. This research will provide information to assist farmers, land use planners, policy makers, and public interest groups in making science-based decisions that enhance natural resource quality and sustain farm economic viability. The research addresses components of National Program Area 207, Integrated Agricultural Systems and NP 307, Bioenergy and Energy Alternatives. Replacement for 5358-21410-001-00D. (Exp 1/04).
ARS SWAT Model Applied to Flood Prediction for the National Weather Service. Improved weather data for flood prediction are available, but the most appropriate model to use those data needs to be identified. The ARS model that was developed by the ARS researchers in Corvallis, OR to simulate hydrology and agricultural practices was used in a new application to predict flooding. Hourly radar data provided by the National Weather Service from five study watersheds was used to calibrate Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) models of the hydrology of each watershed. The results, which modeled observed data very well, validated the use of SWAT as the primary physical model for this project. Predictions from these calibrated models will be compared with results from other modeling teams and used to guide future National Weather Service distributed modeling research and applications. This accomplishment addresses National Program 207 Integrated Farming Systems; Problem Area 2 Strategies and Tools to Reduce Producer Risks
GIS Identifies Weed Hot-spots. Variability in the location of weeds confounds effective management approaches to control weeds. The Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit in Corvallis defined hotspots for the 36 most commonly occurring weeds in grass seed crops using the GIS database developed in FY 2006. Species most likely to be found in concentrated hot-spots were German velvetgrass, field bindweed, roughstalk bluegrass, and annual bluegrass. Success in display hot-spots of these weeds while maintaining grower anonymity will enable more effective weed management. This accomplishment addresses National Program 207 Integrated Farming Systems; Problem Area 2 Strategies and Tools to Reduce Producer Risks.
Satellite Imaging Used to Identify Crops. Landscape scale knowledge of crop production is necessary to understand how practices impact natural resources but collecting it is expensive. The Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit in Corvallis used existing satellite images to identify crops produced on specific fields in a watershed in western Oregon. Data derived from these images was used to characterize tillage and ground cover in multiple drainages that were monitored for water quality by unit scientists and Oregon State University collaborators. This enabled us to extend the use of the satellite imagery to a broader range of crops and permitted an improved understanding of the impact of agricultural practices on natural resources and wildlife habitat. This accomplishment addresses National Program 207 Integrated Farming Systems; Problem Area 3 Strategies to Expand Market Opportunities.
Differences Among Switchgrass Varieties Impact Use for Biofuel. Accumulation of silica, chloride, potassium and other minerals reduce the utility of grasses when they are used in gasification. ARS scientists in Corvallis, OR demonstrated that there are varietal differences in how switchgrass accumulates these minerals. Mineral accumulation by six varieties grown at five different locations in the Midwest for a period of two years was quantified. This information will be applied by geneticists that are breeding new varieties of switchgrass for improved characteristics for energy conversion. This accomplishment addresses Problem 1B, Objective 1B1, Identify optimal economic strategies to incorporate bio-based energy production into existing U.S. agricultural systems without compromising natural resource quality, of the NP216 Action Plan, Component 1, Agronomic Crop Production Systems.
Native Grasses Differ In Their Quality As Biofuel Feedstock. Certain minerals accumulated in grass straw reduce the useful life of gasification reactors. ARS scientists in Corvallis, OR demonstrated that native grasses collected from four western states differed significantly in the quantities of silica, potassium, chloride and other minerals that impact the suitability of the straw for bioenergy use. We quantified the accumulation of these minerals in nine species of native grasses that have utility in conservation buffer strips. This information will be useful where restoration and conservation planting efforts are designed to permit dual use of these grasses as both conservation aids, and as potential biomass feedstock. This accomplishment addresses Problem 1B, Objective 1B1, Identify optimal economic strategies to incorporate bio-based energy production into existing U.S. agricultural systems without compromising natural resource quality, of the NP216 Action Plan, Component 1, Agronomic Crop Production Systems.
Excess Straw for Value-Added Uses. Straw produced during cereal and grass seed production represents a potential feedstock in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, but the amount and location of straw in excess of that required for conservation purposes was not known. Scientists in Corvallis, OR quantified total straw production for all counties in these three states, determined the amount of straw that should be returned to the soil for conservation purposes, and developed a resource map to indicate how much net available straw was produced in the region that might be utilized as biofuel feedstock or other value-added purposes. Over seven million tons of available straw are produced annually in the region. This information will be applied by farmers and entrepreneurs interested in conversion of straw to biofuels or other bioproducts. This accomplishment addresses Problem 1B, Objective 1B1, Identify optimal economic strategies to incorporate bio-based energy production into existing U.S. agricultural systems without compromising natural resource quality, of the NP216 Action Plan, Component 1, Agronomic Crop Production Systems.
Restoration of Native Pacific Northwest Prairies. Invasive plants, especially non-native perennial grasses, reduce native diversity and alter vegetation structure, fire regimes, soil characteristics, and faunal diversity. Our current knowledge regarding the effectiveness of techniques for controlling many invasive weeds, especially in sites that retain a significant component of native vegetation, is incomplete. A comprehensive baseline characterization of soils at 11 Pacific Northwest prairie sites was developed by ARS researchers in Corvallis, OR and provided to the Nature Conservancy, Priscilla Bullitt Collins Trust, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, and soon will be transferred to USDA-NRCS. These data are providing conservationists information to help improve and maintain native habitat that will benefit livestock, wildlife, and overall ecosystem health. This accomplishment addresses National Program 207 Integrated Farming Systems; Problem Area 1 Strategies to Reduce Production Costs, Increase Profits, and Enhance Natural Resource Quality.
5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
|Number of non-peer reviewed presentations and proceedings||19|
|Number of newspaper articles and other presentations for non-science audiences||15|