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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
1) To quantify the hydrological system function at various scales in order to predict and assess the efficacy of new management practices; quantify the impacts of innovative practices at field, farm and watershed scales; predict the fate and transport of nutrients and pesticides; and provide a better understanding of the roles of climate, soils and management in cycling of these contaminants. 2) To develop economical and environmentally sound irrigation and drainage management tools, practices, and technologies that conserve water and protect regional water resources and supplies, and foster safe nutrient and pesticide strategies based upon improved knowledge of the function of wetlands and vegetated waterways.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Research will be conducted in collaboration with University of MA-Amherst scientists at the UMass Cranberry Station in East Wareham, MA and with USDA-ARS scientists in Madison, WI. The overall goal is to enhance the productivity and profitability of the cranberry production system to meet the needs of cranberry producers; the demands of consumers for nutritious, safe, and affordable fruit; and the desire of the general public to protect the environment. Time-domain reflectometry and other measurement techniques will be used for measuring soil water availability for a range of applicable soils, cranberry cultivars, and drainage management practices. Irrigation systems that incorporate real-time measurements of soil water availability with automated irrigation applications across the same ranges of relevant soils, cultivars, and management practices will be evaluated for their impacts on yield, water use efficiency, and pesticide/nutrient losses. These systems will be integrated with existing automated systems already in place for linking temperature and irrigation for frost protection. Existing and new cultivars and IPM practices under development at both the East Wareham, MA and Madison, WI locations will be incorporated into the study design. Vegetated waterways and filter strips will be evaluated for their efficacy in reducing pesticide and nutrient losses. This research will be integrated with research conducted by UMass and Madison collaborators in plant nutrition, weed management, entomology, pathology, physiology, fertility, and plant breeding to enhance the overall sustainability of cranberry production systems.

3. Progress Report:
Equipment has been purchased for long-term water quality monitoring at five sites. Preliminary results show significant variability in water flows and nutrient concentrations, suggesting that management practices for reducing nutrient loads will need to be developed on a farm-specific basis. Monitoring at the five sites will be fully operational by this year’s harvest flood; possibly the largest transport pathway of nutrient loss from farms. We’ve also started testing the effectiveness of a gypsum amendment for reducing phosphorus loss during flood releases. It is anticipated that surface application of gypsum, a naturally occurring powdery rock, will reduce the transport of phosphorus from flood waters to nearby ponds and lakes. We have received external funds to develop new management practices for improving drainage of farms and optimizing methodology for frost protection irrigation. Funds will be used to develop best management practices for “tile drainage,” a new drainage practice consisting of installation of shallow perforated pipes, and “frost cycling irrigation,” the turning on and off of irrigation water during cold spring nights.

4. Accomplishments
1. New ARS lab in Massachusetts. Water quality impairment linked to agricultural fertilizers is one of the most significant challenges currently facing the cranberry industry. A lab has been established to sample, test, and improve water quality effluent from cranberry farms. A network of five monitoring sites has been established by ARS researchers at the University of Massachusetts Cranberry Station in East Wareham, Massachusetts for quantifying nitrogen and phosphorus losses from cranberry farms. These sites will be used to develop baseline levels of water quality impairment and also to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies for enhancing water quality of cranberry farms.

2. Benefits of frost protection irrigation cycling. Frost irrigation is a practice used for protecting cranberry buds against the cold and dry nights of early spring. Costly in both time and money, frost irrigation may account for up to 75% of the annual production cost of cranberries in Massachusetts. Conventional frost irrigation methodology calls for running irrigation pumps throughout the night, but growers have started to experiment with turning pumps on and off (referred to as “cycling") according to predefined temperature setpoints. Ongoing research by ARS researchers at the University of Massachusetts Cranberry Station in East Wareham, Massachusetts consists of determining the additional savings in water and fuel that can be achieved in cycling and to demonstrate to growers that implementation of this new method for frost protection does not harm production.

Review Publications
Bowen, G.J., Kennedy, C.D., Liu, Z., Stalker, J. 2011. Water balance model for mean annual hydrogen and oxygen isotope distributions in surface waters of the contiguous US. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences. 116. DOI: 10.1029/2010JG001581.

Liu, Z., Kennedy, C.D., Bowen, G.J. 2011. Pacific/North American teleconnection controls on precipitation isotope ratios across the contiguous United States. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 310:319-326.

Kennedy, C.D., Bataille, C., Liu, Z., Ale, S., Vandevelde, J., Roswell, C.R., Bowling, L.C., Bowen, G.J. 2012. Dynamics of nitrate and chloride during storm events in agricultural catchments with different subsurface drainage intensity (Indiana, USA). Journal of Hydrology. DOI: 10.1016/j.hydrol.2012.05.002.

Bowen, G.J., Kennedy, C.D., Henne, P.D., Zhang, T. 2012. Footprint of recycled water subsidies downwind of Lake Michigan. Ecosphere. DOI: 10.1890/ES12-00062.1.

Last Modified: 06/23/2017
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