CONSERVATION PRACTICES IN NORTHEASTERN GRAZING LANDS
Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research
2013 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective of this cooperative research project is to evaluate the watershed-level effects of agricultural land use and Best Management Practices in the Spring Creek watershed in central Pennsylvania by using aerial remote sensing topographic data and on-farm sampling to characterize within-farm placement of agricultural and conservation land uses relative to local drainage networks.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Previous CEAP-related research in the Spring Creek watershed funded the collection of fine-grained LIDAR topographic data and collection of basic information on agricultural BMPs applied within the watershed. Further on-farm mapping and producer interviews will be used to identify land use types on the grazing farms within this watershed. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be used to map water flow paths within farms, and to characterize the spatial position of land use types with differing potential for nutrient and sediment runoff relative to those flow paths. This Specific Cooperative Agreement will be used to hire a post-doctoral research associate to conduct the watershed research, and to work closely with the cooperator on the analysis of LIDAR data.
This is the final report for this project. NRCS Pasture Condition Score data are being collected in Spring Creek Watershed, PA and surrounding areas as part of a larger project monitoring water quality, watershed health, and other indicators across the Chesapeake Bay. This work will increase understanding of the role of grazing agriculture in this critical watershed. Over the life of the project, a postdoctoral research associate was hired to conduct work meeting the agreed-upon objectives, and completed that portion of the project in FY2012. The research carried out in Spring Creek compared the use of geometric flow paths to topographic flow paths calculated from digital elevation models from USGS at two resolutions, 30m and 10m, and LiDAR-derived digital elevation model at 1m horizontal resolution. Effective and efficient methods for modeling water movement make it possible both to target riparian buffer placement to the most helpful area, and to place new animal heavy use areas where they will be filtered by existing riparian buffers. A peer-reviewed manuscript on the use of topographic information to inform placement of riparian conservation practices has been published in Landscape Ecology, and a CEAP Science Note has been provided to NRCS. Ongoing field sampling of pasture condition and watershed health will provide additional publications.