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Researchers, Farmers Team Up To Revive Mississippi Lakes

By Jill Lee
March 2, 1999

WASHINGTON, March 02--Mississippi's Deep Hollow Lake has cleaner water and is home to more fish and other wildlife because researchers are helping farmers find affordable ways to protect the environment, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.

The farmland around Deep Hollow Lake in Leflore County is in one of USDA's "Management Systems Evaluation Areas" in seven states. Begun in 1990, the MSEA program is designed to test and develop farming methods that will work with nature to protect water quality.

“Part of MSEA’s success is making farmers research partners in finding out what works,” said I. Miley Gonzalez, USDA’s Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. “When work began at Deep Hollow Lake, water clarity was less than 2 inches and there were few plants or algae. Today the lake has 14- to 20-inch clarity and abundant plant life. The fish and other wildlife are increasing.”

MSEAs are cooperatively managed by two USDA agencies--the Agricultural Research Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service--and the U.S. Geological Survey, in conjunction with collaborators with state and local governments and industry. Each MSEA project is tailored to the particular needs of the area's farmers and the environment.

ARS scientists working on the Mississippi Delta MSEA are based at the National Sedimentation Laboratory, Oxford, Miss., and the Jamie Whitten Delta State Research Center in Stoneville, Miss.

The Mississippi Delta MSEA focuses on erosion control and the prevention of sediment and chemical runoff into lakes. In addition to Deep Hollow Lake, other test sites in Mississippi are Beasley and Thighman lakes and the farmland around them. The farmers agreed to try environmentally friendly land management strategies so scientists could evaluate their effectiveness.

Each lake has a different level of environmental protection, from minimal conservation practices to a complete system of cutting-edge strategies for controlling erosion and runoff. Beasley is the moderate-practice lake. Thighman was planned for the minimal level, but conservation practices have proven so cost-effective and beneficial at Deep Hollow and Beasley that farmers at Thighman are trying them, too.

Mississippi Delta MSEA researchers also are exploring use of strips of tall grasses to keep valuable topsoil on the land and out of the lake, and to slow down surface runoff.

A story about the research appears in the March issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine and on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contact: Charlie Cooper, research leader, ARS Water Quality/Ecological Processes Research Unit, 598 McElroy Dr., Oxford, MS 38655, phone (601) 232-2935, fax (601) 232-2915,