Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Assessing Conservation Effects on Water Quantity and Quality at Field and Watershed Scales

Location: National Soil Erosion Research Lab

Project Number: 5020-12130-001-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 21, 2011
End Date: Dec 20, 2016

Objective:
Objective 1. Advance the knowledge and improve mathematical representation of physical and biogeochemical processes affecting sediment, nutrient, and pesticide losses in runoff. Subobjective 1.1. Quantify surface and subsurface hydrologic effects on runoff chemical transport and ephemeral gully erosion. Subobjective 1.2. To identify practices that will optimize the benefits of no-tillage, while minimizing the risk of P losses via runoff, without sacrificing crop productivity. Subobjective 1.3. Identify practices to optimize drainage while maximizing nutrient removal efficiency. Objective 2. Protect off-site water quality by developing methods to reduce pollutant losses from agricultural fields and watersheds. Subobjective 2.1. Develop a BMP (Best Management Practice) to reduce nutrient and pesticide delivery from landscapes to drainage systems and water bodies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Subobjective 2.2. Test the impact of established and new conservation practices at the field and watershed scale. Subobjective 2.3. Determination of optimal BMPs for control of runoff, sediment, and chemical losses from agricultural fields and watersheds, under existing and future climates. Objective 3. Improve soil erosion and water quality models for better assessment and management of cropland, forestland, and other managed lands. Subobjective 3.1. Improve our ability to predict soil erosion and water quality. Subobjective 3.2. Develop techniques that enhance field-to-watershed model parameterization for improved hydrologic model predictions. Subobjective 3.3. Develop methods to optimize chemical monitoring parameters to minimize costs and uncertainties associated with characterizing selected endocrine disrupting chemicals in artificially drained landscapes.

Approach:
Laboratory studies will be used to gain process-level understanding on the effects of topographic driven surface water convergence and soil hydraulic gradient driven subsurface flow on sediment and chemical loadings. Landscape attributes affecting convergence of surface and subsurface flows will be used to validate the lab findings on conditions for channel initiation and chemical transport. To identify practices that optimize the benefits of no-till while minimizing risk of P losses, laboratory experiments will be used to test a large array of fertilizers and production practices. Plot scale experiments will be used to evaluate practices over a 5 to 10 yr period as they relate to soil and water quality. To identify practices that optimize drainage while maximizing nutrient removal, lab and streamside fluvaria will be utilized. Treatments of various materials including gravel and woodchips below stream sediment will be tested, as will use of various heights of sediment dams, to reduce nutrient losses in stream water. Controlled drainage on tile drained fields to optimize soil moisture status to reduce excess loss of nutrients, in combination with a soil amendment of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) gypsum will be evaluated. This project will continue to monitor runoff and water quality in subwatersheds of the St. Joseph River (SJR) in northeastern Indiana, and also conduct ecological studies through an SCA with Indiana-Purdue University Ft. Wayne and a cooperative project with ARS-Columbus. Detailed flow and pollutant data in the SJR subwatersheds are available from 2003-present, allowing for both uncalibrated, calibration, and validation studies with a number of watershed hydrology, sediment, and water quality models. The models can also be applied in a forecasting mode, to examine impacts of widespread or targeted placement and implementation of various land management practices (e.g. conservation tillage, different crop rotations, buffer strips, etc.) on predicted runoff and pollutant losses. Use of information from Global Environment Models will be downscaled to develop modified climate inputs to the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model. In-house and cooperative erosion model development, testing, and validation efforts will be conducted. Work will include maintenance of WEPP, including model scientific code, user interfaces, model databases, and user support. Cooperative efforts on development of a combined wind and water erosion model will be continued. A new WEPP-Water Quality model will be developed which will also allow examination of the impacts of projected future climate change on runoff, sediment, and chemical losses and how management practices to reduce these losses may change. Geostatistical scaling techniques will be applied and evaluated to allow linkage of various soil parameters (i.e., hydraulic conductivity, porosity) across scales ranging from a few hectares to subbasins of 10,000+ ha. Loading of endocrine disruptors and selected metabolites to the SJR will be examined for significant relationships between analytes. Through statistical correlation analysis, potential surrogate analytes will be identified.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page