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Agricultural Research Service

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Grower-Assisted Research is a Success

By Tara Weaver-Missick
August 22, 2000

Good farming practices are proving to be successful in reducing soil sedimentation at Deep Hollow Lake located in the Mississippi Delta region, according to Agricultural Research Service scientists working to improve water quality there.

Deep Hollow, along with Thighman and Beasley lakes, is part of a living laboratory experiment--the Mississippi Delta Management Systems Evaluations Area (MSEA) project. The Delta MSEA comprises about 7,320 acres of farm land surrounding the three lakes. The project was set up to evaluate how changing farm practices can help improve the water quality of these lakes.

In this, the sixth year of the project, scientists are finding that algal populations have shifted from those that impair water quality to those that are not harmful. This shift is occurring around Deep Hollow Lake because of conservation practices, such as planting winter cover crops, reducing tillage, and planting vegetative filter strips. These practices minimize soil movement and restrict herbicide runoff into the lake.

ARS researchers say the improvement in water quality indicates that conservation practices reduced sediment movement into Deep Hollow. By contrast, farmers haven’t implemented these conservation practices around Thighman and Beasley lakes, so sediment hasn’t been reduced in these lakes.

During the next phase of the MSEA project, the scientists will look at how farmers’ management practices affect total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) of pollutants. The new TMDLs, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, are stricter water quality rules for sediment runoff and non-point source pollution that are part of the Clean Water Act of 1972. ARS researchers will investigate cost-effective measures to help farmers put into play new conservation practices to meet these proposed guidelines.

ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Robert M. Zablotowicz, ARS Southern Weed Science Research Unit, Stoneville, Miss.; phone (662) 686-5260, fax (662) 686-5422,

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