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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Mitigating the Environmental Impact of Agriculture with Alternative Management Practices

Authors
item Rice, Pamela
item Hapeman, Cathleen
item Sadeghi, Ali
item McConnell, Laura
item Teasdale, John
item Harman Fetcho, Jennifer
item Heighton Davies, Lynne

Submitted to: Soil and Water Conservation Society Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 12, 2004
Publication Date: July 25, 2004
Citation: Rice, P.J., Hapeman, C.J., Sadeghi, A.M., Mcconnell, L.L., Teasdale, J.R., Harman Fetcho, J.A., Heighton Davies, L. 2004. Mitigating the environmental impact of agriculture with alternative management practices. Soil and Water Conservation Society Proceedings. Headwaters of Conservation, 24-28 July 2004, St. Paul, MN. Poster No. 17.

Technical Abstract: A common management practice for the production of fresh-market vegetables utilizes polyethylene (plastic) mulch and requires multiple applications of agrochemicals. During rain events, runoff is enhanced because 50 to 75% of the field is covered with an impervious surface. Previous studies have shown that runoff from polyethylene mulch can contain soil and pesticide concentrations that would impact adversly non-target aquatic organisms in adjacent surface waters. Two field studies were conducted to quantify off-site movement of soil and pesticides with runoff from tomato plots managed with the conventional polyethylene-mulch management practice and two alternative management practices. Geometric means of individual runoff events collected within a field season were calculated for runoff volume, soil loads, and pesticide loads, and compared between management practices. The addition of vegetative furrows to the conventional polyethylene system decreased runoff volume by more than 40%, soil erosion by more than 80%, and pesticide loads by more than 60%. Replacement of the impermeable polyethylene mulch with vegetative mulch further reduced these values by an additional 10 to 40% resulting in an 80, 90, and 80% reduction in runoff volume, soil loss, and pesticide loss with runoff, respectively, relative to the conventional polyethylene-mulch management practice. The maintained harvest yields and reduced runoff volume, soil loss, and off-site transport of pesticides measured in runoff from the alternative management practices demonstrate these vegetative systems are more sustainable and may have a less adverse impact on the environment, while providing growers with an acceptable economic return.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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