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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Soil Drainage Research

2011 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The overall project goal focuses on improving subsurface drainage water management systems (DWMS), particularly those employing controlled drainage practices, which will be used throughout the Midwest U.S., to provide both environmental and economic benefits. Accomplishing this goal requires an integrated research program that leads to enhanced controlled drainage operational strategies, improvement of DWMS design, development of flooding tolerant crop cultivars, and innovation in agricultural water treatment technologies. Specific objectives include:.
1)Develop a knowledge base that will provide useful insight for improving controlled drainage operational strategies so as to maximize environmental and economic benefits..
2)Collect field data that will offer useful insight on proper DWMS design (particularly for controlled drainage systems), and then conduct a computer modeling investigation to determine the best controlled drainage design criteria and operational strategies that provide environmental and economic benefits..
3)Develop flooding stress tolerant soybean cultivars that are better adapted to Midwest U.S. DWMS wet soil conditions..
4)Develop constructed wetland and other water treatment technologies that can be integrated with DWMS to reduce nutrient and pesticide losses from cropland and turf environments.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Conduct plot studies to quantify the subsurface drainage effects of three outlet control structure weir elevations and a scenario in which the outlet control structure weir height is gradually lowered. Conduct producer operated, field scale comparisons between open, unrestricted versus controlled subsurface drainage systems. Determine the effects of controlled drainage versus open, unrestricted drainage on surface runoff. Determine the soil quality effects of controlled drainage verses open, unrestricted drainage. Perform laboratory tests and field investigations to quantify processes affecting nitrate mobility in low permeability Midwest U.S. soils that typically require artificial subsurface drainage. Conduct plot studies to evaluate different subsurface drainage system infrastructure characteristics for the purpose of improving DWMS design criteria. Using data collected from different Midwest U.S. field locations, calibrate and verify computer models capable of simulating DWMS flow, water quality, and crop yield responses. If necessary, modify the computer program used to develop the computer models. Screen soybean cultivars of diverse origins for flooding stress tolerance and employ quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping on the most promising cultivars in order to locate genes on the genetic linkage map that are responsible for flooding stress tolerance. Develop transgenic soybeans with improved flooding tolerance and then verify their flooding tolerance. For three constructed wetlands, assess present water treatment effectiveness along with vegetation/wildlife function and then evaluate, on the same basis, improvement modifications. Perform laboratory tests to screen novel filter materials for ability to remove nitrate and atrazine from drainage water. If an effective and efficient filter material is isolated in the laboratory, a field pilot test will follow. Evaluate the ability of commercially available filter materials to absorb or bind nutrients and pesticides present in tile drainage water from an urban turf environment.

3.Progress Report
1a - Monitoring of water quality, water flow, water level, and crop yield continues at the Defiance Agricultural Research Association (DARA) field experimental site in Defiance County, Ohio. The data collected is then stored on a computer database and analyzed. Over the past year, two of the test plots were operated in controlled drainage mode, while conventional, unrestricted drainage practices were used at the other two test plots. 1b - Drainage flow data, drainage water samples, and crop yields from free drainage and managed drainage treatments were obtained at 8 paired field sites on privately owned farms in Northwest Ohio. 1c - Surface and subsurface flows were measured from 8 small research plots in response to natural precipitation and soil thawing conditions with 4 plots in free drainage mode and 4 plots in drainage water management mode. Data analysis partially completed. 1d – Soil profile compaction and electrical conductivity data has been tabulated at five field locations for preparation of manuscripts. 1e– Laboratory data has been tabulated for preparation of manuscripts documenting the impact on nitrate anion exclusion due to soil moisture conditions and the amounts of clay and organic matter present. 2a - Progress is the same as described in Subobjective 1a for the DARA field experimental site. 2b - No progress. 3a - Genetic loci associated with adventitious root development and root growth in response to flooding were mapped in the PI408105A x S99-2281 cross-bred population. Tolerance of soybean to Mn associated with flooded soil is being studied in the growth chamber. 3b - T2 seeds of transgenic plants containing the flood tolerant candidate genes MYB-XET, MYB-GLB1, and 35S-GLB1 are being produced. 4a - An Ohio State University Extension Bulletin is presently being compiled, which will synthesize research conducted at Ohio Wetland Reservoir Subirrigation System (WRSIS) sites, document WRSIS benefits, and provide guidelines for WRSIS design and management. A peer review manuscript describing aquatic community differences between WRSIS wetlands and WRSIS reservoirs has been submitted and is under review. Additionally, a technical report synthesizing four years of fish, amphibian, and reptile research within WRSIS wetlands and reservoirs is near completion. 4b - Laboratory hydraulic conductivity tests, contaminant removal batch tests, and saturated solute transport column experiments have documented the feasibility of using iron based filter materials to remove arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, and selenium from water. Laboratory testing was carried out to evaluate the hydraulic efficiency of a small-scale filter treatment system containing a porous iron composite material. 4c- Progress continues on the field scale installation and testing of various industrial byproducts as filter media. Current efforts are focused on development and testing of delivery systems that permit larger flow rates to be filtered.

1. Less drainage, more corn. Drainage water from agricultural lands, especially subsurface (tile) drainage water, carries nutrients that impair downstream water uses. Farmers can manage the drainage system outlet to reduce the amount of water and nutrients delivered off the fields during the non-growing season. Using this same technology to minimize nutrient and water loss during the growing season, ARS scientists at Columbus, OH, in cooperation with Ohio State University scientists, have shown corn yield increase in 66 percent of the fields where this management was applied over a three year trial. This increase in corn yield is expected to encourage more producers to adopt drainage water management and reduce water and nutrient delivery from agricultural fields. This will benefit the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and Lake Erie along with numerous municipal water supply reservoirs. NRCS is using this information to develop a strategy to promote adoption of this practice by farmers.

2. Antenna orientation affects ground penetrating radar drainage pipe response. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a non-destructive and efficient subsurface drainage water management tool that is potentially useful to farmers and land improvement contractors for finding buried agricultural drainage pipes and evaluating their functionality. ARS scientists at Columbus, Ohio conducted a field study to determine the GPR pipe response effects due to the GPR antenna orientation relative to drain line directional trend. Under dry soil conditions, a GPR antenna orientation perpendicular to the drain line was found to provide the best GPR drainage pipe response, while conversely, under wet soil conditions, a GPR antenna orientation parallel to a drain line provided the best GPR drainage pipe response. This information can be employed to optimize GPR field survey procedures, based on shallow hydrologic conditions, for the purpose of improving GPR drainage pipe location and functionality assessment capabilities. This technology is beginning to be used in the turf industry especially to locate drains on golf courses.

3. Improving soybean yield in intermittently wet soil. Soybean yield is severely impacted by flooding stress and Phytophthora root rot when soils become saturated. ARS scientists at Columbus, Ohio, identified quantitative trait loci (QTL) and DNA markers associated with these traits in the soybean population developed by crossing a commercial soybean variety with a tolerant non-commercial soybean line. The results indicated that these two traits are independently inherited and that PI408105A provides valuable gene pools for both flooding tolerance and Phytophthora resistance. The identification of these DNA markers provides an important starting point for transferring and pyramiding genes to develop new soybean varieties that could contribute to improvement of soybean productivity in soils prone to flooding.

4. Altering soybean seed composition by flooding stress. To profile the changes in soybean seed composition due to flooding stress, ARS scientists in Columbus, Ohio, conducted a study with eight soybean genotypes that differed in levels of flooding tolerance. The results showed that flooding did not significantly affect seed protein, oil or palmitic acid, but increased oleic acid and stearic acid levels in all genotypes. The levels of linoleic acid, linolenic acid, daidzein, genistein, and glycitein were significantly reduced in the tolerant and medium tolerant genotypes, but increased in the susceptible genotype. The results provide information to breeders for modeling soybean seed composition traits under flooding, a stress condition that is predicted to occur more frequently due to global climate changes.

5. Iron based filter materials remove the heavy metals arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), and selenium (Se) from water. Farm field municipal sewage sludge and wastewater applications along with arid region crop irrigation practices can each lead to the presence of heavy metals in surface runoff and subsurface drainage waters, which are then discharged into local streams, rivers and lakes. ARS scientists at Columbus, Ohio, conducted a laboratory study to evaluate the heavy metal removal capabilities of four iron based filter materials. Results indicate that each of the four iron based filter materials can remove some or most of these contaminants present in water. Consequently, filter systems containing iron based materials are an option for field removal of heavy metals found in agricultural surface runoff and subsurface drainage waters, thereby providing an environmental benefit to the public.

6. Filtering subsurface drainage waters using industrial by-products. Excess nutrients and pesticides in drainage waters degrade surface water quality. Treatment of these affected waters for public distribution, commercial and recreational use can be costly. Capture of these contaminants prior to surface water entry is a viable solution to maintain cleaner water downstream. ARS scientists in Columbus, Ohio, tested the use of industrial byproducts in filters to reduce contaminant loads in subsurface drainage waters. The byproducts proved effective, inexpensive, and their use has potential to reduce the waste stream of several industries including the cement and steel making industries. Thus, the beneficiaries of this research include downstream water users and industry. Several commerical entities have expressed interest in this technology.

Review Publications
Allred, B.J. 2011. Location and assessment of drainage pipes beneath farm fields and golf course greens using ground penetrating radar: A research summary. Fast Times: News for the Near Surface Geophysical Sciences. 15(4):49-55.

Allred, B.J., Freeland, R.S. 2011. Application of geophysical methods to agriculture: An overview. Fast Times: News for the Near Surface Geophysical Sciences. 15(4):13-25.

Allred, B.J., Butnor, J., Corwin, D.L., Eigenberg, R.A., Farahani, H., Johnsen, K., Lambot, S., McInnis, D., Pettinelli, E., Samuelson, L., Woodbury, B.L. 2011. Agricultural Geophysics. In: Turk, A.S., Hocaoglu, A.K., Vertiy. A.A. (eds.) Subsurface Sensing. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Australia. 618-643.

Plappally, A., Soboyejo, A., Fausey, N.R., Soboyejo, W., Brown, L. 2010. Stochastic modeling of filtrate alkalinity in water filtration devices: Transport through micro/nano porous clay based ceramic materials. Journal of Natural and Environmental Science. 1(2):96-105.

Vantoai, T.T., Tran, T., Nguyen, N., Nguyen, H., Shannon, G., Rahman, M.A. 2010. Flooding tolerance of soybean (Glycine max) germplasm from southeast Asia under field and screen-house environment. Open Agriculture Journal. 4:38-46.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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