Location: Soil Drainage Research
2008 Annual Report
The SDRU continues to make progress toward assessing and understanding the environmental role of turf in the watershed landscape. The Unit is a critical component of a new agency turf/drainage/by-products initiative. Turf sites in Texas, Minnesota, and Ohio have been instrumented and baseline surface and subsurface hydrology and water quality conditions quantified. Progress continues to be made on the development and assessment of inline filters designed to clean drainage waters. Cooperative efforts with industry and other ARS locations are underway to identify, deliver, and implement by-product filters at turf sites.
There is limited guidance available for those interested in designing scientific evaluations of the ecological effects of conservation practices, despite the availability of numerous sampling protocols developed for monitoring studies. Conservation practices are implemented within agricultural watersheds to reduce the water quality impacts of agricultural production. Information on the ecological impacts of conservation practices is limited because these practices are frequently implemented without evaluating their impacts. Additionally, only three of 14 watersheds within the ARS CEAP (Conservation Effects Assessment Project) Watershed Assessment Study are evaluating ecological responses to conservation practices. A review of the available information was conducted and a framework consisting of six guiding principles for designing scientific evaluations of ecological responses to conservation practices was developed. These guidelines will provide guidance for others investigating the influence of conservation practices and will facilitate cross-disciplinary assessments of conservation practices. This accomplishment contributes to National Program 211, Problem Area 1-Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and Problem Area 5-Watershed Management, Water Availability, and Ecosystem Restoration.2. Development, release, and implementation of a special Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed
Assessing the watershed scale implementation of conservation practices on privately owned lands is difficult because of a lack of control and manipulation of land use management. Practices that are implemented are voluntary and location of implementation may or may not coincide with research locations. A special EQIP targeting experimental subwatersheds within Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed was jointly developed with the NRCS State Conservationist for Programs, NRCS District Conservationists in Delaware and Morrow counties in Ohio, and personnel from the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District. This EQIP targeted 8000 acres in the Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed and was designed to give incentives for precision nutrient management and pesticide management adoption. Farmers and landowners signed up approximately 7500 acres to the special EQIP for planning. Approximately 7000 acres have been signed up for implementation. Quantification of conservation practices will document which conservation practices are effective and eventually lead to cleaner, safer, and more ecologically sensitive surface water supply. This accomplishment contributes to National Program 211, Problem Area 1-Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP).3. Assessment of fish and macro-invertebrate communities in Midwestern headwater streams receiving agricultural drainage waters
Many headwater streams in the Midwestern United States have been channelized for agricultural drainage. Conservation practices are implemented to reduce nutrient and pesticide loadings within these altered streams. The impact of these practices is uncertain because the influence of water chemistry on stream communities is not well understood. Scientists at the SDRU assembled the first known scientific data on the impacts of the physical and chemical properties of stream waters on fish and macro-invertebrate communities in Midwest U.S. headwater streams receiving agricultural drainage and runoff waters. The findings will be very useful in setting water quality standards and TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads). This accomplishment contributes to National Program 211, Problem Area 1-Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and Problem Area 5-Watershed Management, Water Availability, and Ecosystem Restoration.4. Determined agrichemical transport in subsurface drainage features from managed turf
Turfgrass, in number of acres, is the fourth largest crop in the U.S., following corn, soybeans, and wheat. Turfgrass is the most intensively managed land use in the urban landscape. Additionally, managed turf sites often contain subsurface drainage designed to rapidly convey excess waters and allow for quicker playability following significant rainfall events. Nutrient and pesticide transport in subsurface drainage waters from managed turf was collected and quantified. The data has been provided to the turf industry and turf managers documenting the significance of subsurface drainage in transporting fertilizers and pesticides from managed turf. This has led to collaborative research on a golf course to assess the impact of management and treatment type best management practices. This accomplishment contributes to National Program 211, Problem Area 1-Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and Problem Area 3 - Drainage water management.5. Drainage water filtration
Pollutant transport through drainage waters is well documented. Treating or cleaning drainage water at point of entry is one potential best management practice receiving much attention. Preliminary investigations indicate that industrial byproduct materials such as gypsum or steel slag have the capacity to sorb or bind agrichemicals and are available at little to no cost. Additionally, advances in drainage technologies permit the application of such materials at the end-of-pipes or within drainage ditches. In cooperation with ARS colleagues and representatives from the drainage, turf, and byproducts industries, research has been planned and initiated on the application of natural and byproduct materials to remove nutrients and pesticides carried in drainage and runoff waters from various landuses with an initial focus on the turf industry. This is the first attempt to organize a research and industry team to address this issue. This accomplishment contributes to National Program 211, Problem Area 1 -Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and Problem Area 3 - Drainage water management systems.
5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
King, K.W., Balogh, J.C. 2008. Curve Numbers for Golf Course Watersheds. Transactions of the ASABE. 51(3):987-996.
King, K.W., Balogh, J., Harmel, R.D. 2007. Nutrient Flux in Storm Water Runoff and Baseflow from Managed Turf. Environmental Pollution. 150:321-328.