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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: EFFECTIVENESS OF WATERSHED LAND-MANAGEMENT PRACTICES TO IMPROVE WATER QUALITY
2008 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1)Quantify the ability of best management practices (BMPs) to mitigate the impact of land-use change and extreme climatic events on hydrology and water quality a)Quantify weather and precipitation inputs to watershed models; b)Quantify impacts of land use on runoff and water quality; 2)Quantify the effects of grazing systems on surface runoff and subsurface flow and soil and water quality. 3)Quantify the rate, fate and transport of sediment, nutrients, and agricultural chemicals after implementing agricultural management systems.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Precipitation, weather, water-quality, and runoff data will be monitored from experimental watersheds and plots subjected to different conservation, pasture, and land-management practices. Archived data will be used for estimations of baseline and treatment effects, for precipitation studies, and for concept development.


3.Progress Report
-Urbanization Project: Data collection continues at 4 watersheds, however, few data have been collected due to lack of rainfall. A comprehensive urban-hydrology project was developed that would evaluate the performance of storm-water Best Management Practices. -Management-Intensive Grazing (MIG): Surface runoff, sediment, and subsurface water samples were collected from MIG and continuous grazing management watersheds and analyzed for nutrients. These systems are being compared in regards to forage species composition, animal health and amino acids in milk, and environmental impact on surface and subsurface water and soil. The data from the first 3 years were distributed to stakeholders with handouts and oral presentations. Differences in the management systems are being observed in the forage production and length of grazing between the 2 systems. These systems have not been in place long enough to see changes or trends in water quality. -Precipitation studies: The characterization and estimation of times between storms in mountainous areas, where snowfall is a major component, has been completed and a manuscript sent to a journal. -Manure plots: For a 2nd winter, beef slurry manure was applied to 4 plots in Jan on frozen ground; 2 plots were controls. Also, in Jan, 2 ~2-acre small watersheds received liquid swine manure; 2 watersheds received turkey manure; and 2 watersheds were controls. “Dustpan” samplers were installed at the lower edge of the application areas and at 36 ft below the application area on plots. Runoff samples were collected and analyzed for nutrients, E. coli, and enterococci. Two poster presentations (one on nutrients and one on pathogens) of the first year of data were made at a professional society meeting. Historic NAEW soil and air temperatures are being entered into a computer data base for later analysis of frozen-soil-affected runoff. -Climate change: A preliminary study was completed on the trend in growing degree days for grazing over the last 70 yrs at the NAEW. A fact sheet was completed and distributed at many meetings. -Soil carbon: Soil samples were collected, and many were analyzed for carbon. Initial comparison of soil carbon in these samples with soil carbon levels in previous years has begun. -Water-Treatment Residuals (WTR): The 1st growing season test of the system (2007) resulted in little useable data as there were few storms sufficient to generate runoff. Consequently, new filter bags with mulch only were installed in early 2008 so background data on the effect of untreated mulch could be obtained. A new ARS collaborator was identified (ARS-Oxford, MS) that provided a bulk quantity of WTR that has been characterized for its effect on phosphorus sorption and the results published. -BMP evaluations: A report was written on many aspects of the use of duration curves (DCs) for evaluating BMPs, including seasonality, minimum number of samples, probabilistic interpretation of DCs, minimum number of years of data, & effects of averaging times on DCs. Source tracking data from an Oregon watershed are being analyzed using DCs. A manuscript was submitted to the journal.


4.Accomplishments
1. Paper mill sludge enhances surface-mine reclamation: Paper mills generate a large amount of byproduct that consists of fibers too short to make paper, clay, and lime. Paper mill sludge (PMS) can improve reclamation of surface-coal mines where low pH and organic-carbon levels in the spoil cover material can inhibit revegetation, but may adversely impact the water quality when used at high rates. The results of this field study indicated that rates as high as 672 Mg/ha drastically reduced runoff and erosion and improved soil quality and plant growth compared to standard reclamation practices while not increasing the load of other pollutants to runoff. These results will aid in establishing regulatory guidelines for PMS usage and potentially increase the beneficial usage of this byproduct. This accomplishment contributes to NP 206 Manure and Byproduct Utilization; Byproduct Component, Problem Area #3: Byproduct utilization technologies.


5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
None.


6.Technology Transfer

Number of Non-Peer Reviewed Presentations and Proceedings2
Number of Newspaper Articles and Other Presentations for Non-Science Audiences1
Number of Other Technology Transfer4

Review Publications
Vadas, P.A., Owens, L.B., Sharpley, A.N. 2008. An empirical model for dissolved phosphorus in runoff from surface-applied fertilizers. Agriculture Ecosystems and the Environment. 127:59-65.

Bonta, J.V. 2008. Drop-box Weir for Measuring Flow Rates Under Extreme Flow Conditions. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 63(4):134A.

Harmel, R.D., Bonta, J.V., Richardson, C.W. 2007. The original USDA-ARS experimental watersheds in Texas and Ohio: Contributions from the past and visions for the future. Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. 50(5):1669-1675.

Pappas, E.A., Smith, D.R., Huang, C., Shuster, W.D., Bonta, J.V. 2007. Impervious surface impacts to runoff and sediment discharge under laboratory rainfall simulation. Catena. 72:146-152.

Starr, G.C., Lal, R., Owens, L., and Kimble, J. 2008. Empirical relationships for soil organic carbon transport from agricultural watersheds in Ohio. Land Degradation and Development. 19:57-64.

Eckstein, Y., Lewis, V.E., Bonta, J.V. 2007. Chemical Evolution of Acid Precipitation in Unsaturated Zone of the Pennsylvanian Siltstones and Shales of Central Ohio. Hydrogeology Journal. 15(8):1489-1505.

Bonta, J.V., 2008. Bonta-Rao method for estimating peak flows and frequencies from small agricultural watersheds. In: Singh, V.P., editor. Hydrology and Hydraulics. Highlands Ranch, CO: Water Resources Publications. p. 647-668.

Shipitalo, M.J., Malone, R.W., Owens, L.B. 2008. Impact of glyphosate-tolerant soybean and glufosinate-tolerant corn production on herbicide losses in surface runoff. Journal of Environmental Quality. 37:401-408.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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