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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Soil Drainage Research

2011 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Measure and quantify water quality, water quantity, and soil quality effects of innovative conservation and source water protection practices as well as different land use management at the field, farm, and watershed scale for the Upper Big Walnut Creek and other appropriate watersheds. 2. Develop and validate watershed scale water quality models and quantify the uncertainties of model predictions at field, farm, and watershed scales for the Upper Big Walnut Creek and other appropriate watersheds. 3. Develop models and decision support tools to determine the efficacy of management and land use options under conditions of changing climate.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Quantify the influence of conservation practices and land use on the water chemistry and hydrology of agricultural drainage ditches and streams in the Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed using a before-after-control-impact (BACI) paired watershed design. Two pairs of watersheds, one pair characterized as drainage ditches and one pair characterized as streams, have been identified and instrumented with flumes and automated samplers. Discharge and water samples will be collected automatically via Isco equipment. To quantify how much the loading to headwater streams is reduced by watershed scale adoption of nutrient and pesticide management practices, water samples will be collected using both time and flow proportional sampling. The samples will be analyzed for nutrients using colorimetric flow injection analysis and for pesticides using gas chromatography and ELISA. Apply a calibrated watershed scale model to aid selection, placement and extent of BMPs. Determine the impact of conservation practices on aquatic communities in lotic ecosystems by measuring and quantifing in-stream habitat (water depth, velocity, wet width, and substrate types), in situ water chemistry measurements (dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, water temperature), and aquatic communities in each site three times a year in the spring, summer, and fall for the duration of the study. Conduct field experiments to determine the influence of herbaceous riparian buffers on the physical habitat and aquatic communities in agricultural drainage ditches. Geomorphology and riparian habitat will be sampled once a year, while in-stream habitat, water chemistry, and aquatic communities will be sampled at least three times a year for two years. Laboratory, field, and modeling approaches will be used to assess and characterize the environmental aspects of urban and golf course turf, including the development and evaluation of management strategies and/or technologies. Before – after watershed scale studies will be used to quantify the fate and transport as well as aid in the determination of the processes and management controlling the fate and transport of nutrients, pesticides, and sediment from turf environments and urban landscapes. Laboratory studies, replicated plots, and paired field sites will be used to evaluate innovative technologies, strategies and/or management practices.

3. Progress Report
The ARS Soil Drainage Research Unit (SDRU) in Columbus, Ohio, continues to make advances in quantifying the watershed scale environmental and ecologic impacts of conservation practices as well as assessing and characterizing the environmental aspects of managed turf. The Upper Big Walnut Creek (UBWC) watershed in Ohio is one of 14 benchmark watersheds identified in the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) to provide detailed assessments of watershed scale implementation of conservation practices. Within the UBWC watershed, data is collected at nearly 50 nested and paired sites representing surface and subsurface discharge, channelized and unchannelized watersheds, agricultural and urban land uses, and forested and herbaceous riparian buffer areas. The spatial scale ranges from edge-of-field to USGS 12-digit HUC watersheds. These sites are representative of agricultural and urban areas in the Eastern U.S. Corn Belt and will aid in answering a variety of environmental and ecological questions related to the edge-of-field and watershed scale impacts of conservation practices. We have recently completed the data collection phase of a six year watershed scale assessment study investigating the impacts of precision nutrient management and pesticide management within the UBWC watershed. Analysis of that data has been initiated. With respect to the Mississippi River Basin Initiative, we have identified four landowners/operators within the UBWC watershed and one in the Upper Wabash River Ohio watershed willing to grant us access to research the edge-of-field effects of implementing cover crops. Installation of equipment is ongoing. We have partnered with scientists from our ARS unit in University Park, PA and the University of Vermont to further explore different delivery options and byproducts to filter end-of-tile drainage waters. We continue to make progress on understanding the land use impacts and primary delivery pathways of crop production agriculture, urban, and managed turf landscapes within the Midwest. We were successful in obtaining two grants from the U.S. Golf Association to investigate best management practices for golf facilities. We have initiated research to explore the water quality impacts of retention/detention ponds in the urban landscape. We continue to make progress in understanding and quantifying the impacts of conservation practices on aquatic communities and stream habitat.

4. Accomplishments
1. Filtering subsurface drainage waters using industrial by-products. Excess nutrients and pesticides in drainage waters degrade surface water quality. Treatment of these affected waters for public distribution, commercial and recreational use can be costly. Capture of these contaminants prior to surface water entry is a viable solution to maintain cleaner water downstream. ARS scientists in Columbus, Ohio, tested the use of industrial byproducts in filters to reduce contaminant loads in subsurface drainage waters. The byproducts proved effective, inexpensive, and their use has potential to reduce the waste stream of several industries including the cement and steel making industries. Thus, the beneficiaries of this research include downstream water users and industry. Several commerical entities have expressed interest in this technology.

2. Paired use of grass filter strips with other conservation practices to improve water quality in channelized agricultural headwater streams. Grass filter strips are a widely used conservation practice in the midwestern United States, but the ecological effects of this practice on agricultural streams was limited. ARS scientists in Columbus, Ohio, conducted preliminary assessment of the effect of grass filter strips on the physical habitat, water chemistry, and fishes within channelized agricultural headwater streams. Installation of grass filter strips did not influence vegetative structure, vegetative type, channel form, instream habitat, water chemistry, or the stream biota and may only provide limited ecological benefits unless used in combination with other conservation practices, such as no-till and cover crops. These results are useful for state, federal, and private agencies involved in managing agricultural watersheds to assist them meeting their conservation and restoration goals.

3. Determined the role of managed turf in transporting nitrogen and phosphorus to freshwater systems. Harmful algael blooms in surface water bodies worldwide continues to be a significant issue. Identifying the sources of nutrients leading to these algael blooms is necessary for development and deployment of best management practices designed to mitigate nutrient losses. ARS scientists in Columbus, Ohio, in cooperation with a private research organization, measured water quantity and quality for a six year period at a managed turf system in Duluth, Minnesota to quantify the surface losses of both soluble and total nutrients. Nutrients were detectable in surface runoff throughout the year, had a seasonal trend, and routinely exceeded recommended levels to minimize algael blooms. These findings highlight the need for watershed stakeholders to consider all land uses within the watershed and develop and adhere to management plans that integrate practices for managed turf systems. Golf course managers are modifying their fertilization practices based on this research.

Review Publications
King, K.W., Balogh, J.C. 2011. Stream water nutrient enrichment in a mixed-use watershed. Journal of Environmental Monitoring. 13(3):721-731.

Agrawal, S.G., King, K.W., Fischer, E.N., Woner, D.N. 2011. PO43 Removal by and Permeability of Industrial Byproducts and Minerals: Granulated Blast Furnace Slag, Cement Kiln Dust, Coconut Shell Activated Carbon, Silica Sand and Zeolite. Journal Of Water Air And Soil Pollution. DOI 10.1007/s11270-010-0686-4.

Migliaccio, K., Harmel, R.D., Smiley, P.C. 2010. Chapter 5: Surface water quality sampling in streams and canals. In: Li, Y., Migliaccio, K., editors. Water Quality Concepts, Sampling, and Analyses. CRC Press. p. 51-72.

Smiley, P.C., King, K.W., Fausey, N.R. 2011. Influence of herbaceous riparian buffers on physical habitat, water chemistry, and stream communities within channelized agricultural headwater streams. Ecological Engineering. 37:1314-1323.

Agrawal, S.G., King, K.W., Moore, J.F., Levison, P.W., McDonald, J. 2011. Use of industrial byproducts to filter nutrients and pesticides in a golf green’s drainage water. Journal of Environmental Quality. 40:1273-1280.

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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