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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Soil Drainage Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Objective 1: Quantify water and nitrate fluxes out the bottom of the rootzone into tile drains. This contributes to monitoring of water and N flux and storage, for “footprints”. Objective 2: Develop science-based knowledge that addresses climate mitigation and adaptation, informs policy development, and guides on-farm, watershed level, and public decision making in corn-based systems, using both conventional and organic production practice.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
1. Our comparison is Drainage Water Management (DWM) vs. conventional “free” drainage. We will be using a farmer cooperator site we have already established, building on regional work started in the recent Conservation Innovation Grant that just ended. Treatments: DWM vs. free drainage. Rotation: corn-soybean-wheat, only one phase each year. Tillage system: all sites are some form of conventional till, appropriate for that area. Treatment areas are large production fields or portions of fields. DWM reduces drainflow and nitrate loads from tile drained fields. It may also in some years, increase crop yield. 2. Our approach is to quantify and compare the water, carbon, and nitrogen balances between no-till based conventional practice (commercial fertilizer and pesticides are used) and organic practice (no chemical amendments) corn-soybean-wheat rotations on six small instrumented watersheds at the OARDC research facility in Coshocton County, OH. OARDC has agreed to provide field facilities, equipment, and support personnel to conduct the research plan through a Research Support Agreement with the Soil Drainage Research Unit. Analysis and interpretation of the data will be the responsibility of ARS scientists. Each phase of both rotations will be present every year in separate small watersheds where we will measure and account for the water, carbon and nitrogen. Precipitation, runoff, soil moisture content, and ET will be continuously monitored. Annual soil and biomass samples will be analyzed to quantify form and fate of carbon and nitrogen in the system. Runoff samples will also be analyzed to determine carbon and nitrogen migration from the system. Nitrogen and water use efficiency will be determined for both the conventional and organic rotation systems.

3. Progress Report:
Data collection was maintained throughout the year. One presentation about the project was presented at the 2013 Ecological Engineering Society meeting, and two posters were presented at the project PI meeting in West Lafayette, IN. Research activity conducted within this Reimbursable Agreement directly contributes to Sub-Objective 1a of the parent project: Develop subsurface drainage water management system design and operational criteria that optimize environmental protection and crop production; and to Sub-Objective 2a of the parent project: Evaluate no-till, soil amendment, and cover crop practices as compared to conventional management practices for improving crop yield and soil/water quality in intermittently wet soils.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 07/26/2017
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