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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #422678


Location: Soil and Water Management Research

2015 Annual Report

1. Develop irrigation and drainage strategies for emerging cropping systems in the North Central United States to protect water and soil resources. a. Develop methods to facilitate the success of living mulch systems through the use of supplemental irrigation, and evaluate their environmental impact. b. Develop N management strategies for large dairy operations to reduce nutrient losses through artificial subsurface drainage. 2. Reduce the potential adverse impacts of agronomic and horticultural practices on water quality: a) Identify and test innovative management practices; b) Determine factors that control the fate and transport of agrochemicals and contaminants of emerging concern. a. Identify and differentiate contaminants in surface water systems associated with the agriculture-urban interface in order to delineate contaminant sources and develop mitigation strategies. b. Compare water use requirements and characterize persistence, transport and loss pathways of contaminants with runoff from traditional and low-input turf managed with conventional or innovative practices. c. Develop management strategies to reduce nitrate-N leaching losses using fall-applied anhydrous ammonia. d. Determine factors controlling the fate and transport of agrochemicals and contaminants of emerging concern.

Development of agricultural management strategies and basic research on fate and behavior of agrochemicals are integral parts of both objectives. Research will be designed to maximize the information that can be used to attain multiple objectives. For instance, the research in Objective 1a and 1b will include development of irrigation and drainage strategies for emerging cropping systems that will require less N and reduce losses of nitrate-N to water bodies from agrochemicals, while Objective 2a will identify production management systems that minimize offsite transport of agrochemicals to surface water. Objective 2b will determine factors that control the fate and transport of agrochemicals and contaminants of emerging concern in the cropping systems with the irrigation and drainage strategies identified in Objective 1a and 1b, and in the production management systems identified in Objective 2a. The complementarity in fundamental processes studied, sample and data collection methods, and analytical methods across objectives will facilitate integration of results and provide important operational efficiencies. A cohesive, multidisciplinary team is needed to accomplish the presented range of research objectives.

Progress Report
Objective 1a: This objective focused on the development of supplemental irrigation strategies for perennial living mulch systems. We completed data collection comparing yields in four systems: irrigated and unirrigated conventional soybeans and irrigated and unirrigated soybeans in kura clover living mulch systems. We now have one year of data with corn from a previous field season and one year with soybeans from the 2014 growing season. Objective 1b: Monitoring of tile drainage flow and water quality continued (5th year) for center pivot dairy slurry fertigation of silage corn. Side-by-side comparison with alfalfa (3rd year) will end since the cooperator-producer will rotate out of alfalfa one year earlier than planned because of winter kill. Research efforts to optimize reactive nitrogen use on dairy operations are being coordinated with four other ARS locations through the Dairy Agroecological Working Group. Objective 2a: The collection and extraction of sediment, water, and passive samplers from sub-watershed sites with different land uses have been completed. Analysis of sample extracts for contaminants (e.g., veterinary pharmaceuticals, hormones, and pesticides) by liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry has been substantially completed, with analysis of an additional suite of contaminants in progress. Data analysis comparing land use with occurrence of contaminants in sediment and surface water samples has been completed for the first two suites of compounds and a manuscript has been written. Our results will provide tools to identify sources of surface water contaminants, providing insight for targeting mitigation approaches. Objective 2b: Research was completed on the alterations in hydraulic conductivity of the soil system following biochar additions. This work has been documented in a manuscript that has been accepted for publication. The developed model links the alteration in saturated conductivity to biochar particle size and the corresponding original soil texture. Additional work was also completed on the sorption of phenolic acids to various biochars and three different pesticides, which showed greater sorption in biochars with elevated specific surface areas and low dissolved organic carbon contents. Desorption of the pesticides was slower than sorption. Continuing work is evaluating the influence of biochar on the transport of pesticides in simulated columns next year. Turf plots with traditional creeping bentgrass or low-input fine fescue were maintained as a golf course fairway and treated with fungicides at full or partial label rates to evaluate the transport of fall-applied fungicides with spring snowmelt for a second field season. In addition, fertilizer, pesticides and a tracer compound were applied for evaluation of chemical transport with rainfall runoff. The collected samples have been processed and extraction and analysis have begun. The results of these studies will determine which turf system is most effective at reducing the off-site transport of contaminants with runoff. In addition, a runon study was performed on the bentgrass plots to determine the efficacy of turf grass buffers to reduce chemical transport with overland flow. Two buffer lengths were evaluated. Sample extraction and analysis is in progress. Objective 2c: Following one year of no treatments, our experimental field plots examining use of nitrification inhibitor with anhydrous ammonia application were rearranged to avoid heterogeneities in soil texture; the experiments were re-initiated with the new plots in the spring of 2015 and are planned to continue for multiple years. We were unable to hire personnel to conduct some of the other planned research related to biochar amendment due to administrative delays; therefore, we did not make further progress on that effort. We initiated a new investigation in collaboration with University of Minnesota colleagues into the effects of soil amendment with biochar on several archaeal and bacterial genes associated with nitrification, and plan to continue this work for at least one year. Objective 2d. Work was completed on the impact of field aging on the sorption properties of biochar. This work demonstrated that soil exposure greatly reduced the sorption potential of the biochar, most likely through pore clogging of the biochar particle. Work is ongoing examining the sorption profiles of contaminants of emerging concern. This work will be completed within the next 24 months. Additional work is examining the impact of physical shape on hydraulic conductivity alterations. New collaborations have been established with Canada, Congo, and South Korea to jointly examine alterations in hydraulic properties following biochar additions, to encompass a wider variety of soil types.

1. Fine gravel surface inlets reduce subsurface drainage sediment and phosphorus losses. Surface inlets that drain potholes on Midwestern U.S. cropland transport not only water but also sediment, nutrients, agrochemicals, and bacteria to the subsurface drainage system, bypassing the filtering capacity of the soil. Collaborating ARS researchers in St. Paul and Morris, Minnesota, completed a six-year study investigating the impact of replacing open surface inlets with fine gravel inlets on corn silage ground. The replacement design reduced median sediment concentrations by an order of magnitude and soluble phosphorus concentrations by one third. The benefits of the practice could be widespread given estimates of the number of open inlets in the Minnesota River Basin (3 – 28 per sq. mi.), for example.

2. Model developed to aid in predicting biochar's hydraulic conductivity alterations. Biochar has been cited as a material that will improve soil hydraulic properties. However, prior to this research there was no unifying theory to explain the impact that biochar had on saturated conductivity. This work provided the data necessary to validate an empirical model based on existing soil pedotransfer functions for hydraulic conductivity. The model has been validated to predict the direction of alteration; thus, solving the mystery as to why biochar can increase, decrease, or have no impact on the saturated conductivity based on the original soil texture. This will aide in determining the best particle size biochar to add to the field to accomplish the desired alterations in hydraulic conductivity.

3. Observations of alteration in sorption potential of field aged biochar. The sorption capacity of biochar is one of the cited justifications for field application of biochar, in that it could help to retain nutrients and agrochemicals in the soil profile and reduce leaching. ARS scientists at St. Paul, Minnesota, completed research that demonstrates upon field application biochar's sorption property is significantly reduced by soil particles physically blocking the pores of the biochar particle. This research provides insight into the lack of long-term potential in soils containing high clay, and provides a mechanistic basis for the superior performance of biochar in coarse textured soils.

4. Sediment-water distribution of contaminants of emerging concern in a mixed use watershed. Biologically-active compounds originating from agricultural, residential, and industrial sources have been detected in surface waters, which have invoked concern of their potential ecological and human health effects. This study evaluated the occurrence and distribution of 15 contaminants of emerging concern including pesticides, human and veterinary medications, phytoestrogens and personal care products in stream water and sediments and compared their occurrence with sub-watershed land uses. Our results confirm that contaminants of emerging concern are present in urban and agricultural stream sediments, including those contaminants of emerging concern that would typically be found in water and not expected to bind to sediment. ARS and collaborating researchers at St. Paul, Minnesota, showed that spatiotemporal patterns in concentration and loading can be used to trace their sources and transport. These methods and characterizations can be applied in a wide range of settings to inform contaminants of emerging concern monitoring, models, risk assessments and mitigation strategies.

Review Publications
Spokas, K.A., Novak, J.M. 2015. Biochar: The field experience. In: Goreau, T.J., Larson, R.W., Campe, J., editors. Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 235-248.
Feyereisen, G.W., Christianson, L.E. 2015. Hydraulic flow characteristics of agricultural residues for denitrifying bioreactor media. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 31(1):89-96.
Lin, X., Spokas, K.A., Venterea, R.T., Zhang, R., Baker, J.M., Feyereisen, G.W. 2014. Assessing microbial contributions to N2O impacts following biochar additions. Agronomy. 4:478-496.
Feyereisen, G.W., Francesconi, W., Smith, D.R., Papiernik, S.K., Krueger, E.S., Wente, C.D. 2015. Effect of replacing surface inlets with blind or gravel inlets on sediment and phosphorus subsurface drainage losses. Journal of Environmental Quality. 44(2):594-604.
Garcia-Jaramillo, M., Cox, L., Knicker, H., Cornejo, J., Spokas, K.A., Del Carmen Hermosin, M. 2014. Characterization and selection of biochar for an efficient retention of tricyclazole in a flooded alluvial paddy soil. Journal of Hazardous Materials. 286:581-588.
Trigo, C., Spokas, K.A., Cox, L., Koskinen, W.C. 2014. Influence of soil biochar aging on sorption of the herbicides MCPA, nicosulfuron, terbuthylazine, indaziflam, and fluoroethyldiaminotriazine. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 62:10855-10860.
Chen, M., Griffis, T.J., Baker, J.M., Wood, J.D., Xiao, K. 2015. Simulating crop phenology in the Community Land Model and its impact on energy and carbon fluxes. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 120(2):310-325. DOI: 10.1002/2014JG002780.
Cambaliza, M., Shepson, P.B., Bogner, J., Caulton, D.R., Stirm, R., Sweeney, C., Montzka, S.A., Turnbull, J., Spokas, K.A., Salmon, O.E., Lavoie, T.N., Hendricks, A., Mays, K., Turnbull, J., Miller, B.R., Lauvanux, T., Davis, K., Karion, A., Moser, B., Miller, C., Obermeyer, C., Whetstone, J., Prasad, K.R., Miles, N., Richardson, S. 2015. Quantification and source apportionment of the methane emission flux from the city of Indianapolis. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. 3:000037. DOI: 10.12952/journal.elementa.000037.
Fairbairn, D., Karpuzcu, E., Arnold, W., Barber, B., Kaufenberg, E., Koskinen, W.C., Novak, P., Rice, P.J., Swackhamer, D. 2014. Sediment-water distribution of contaminants of emerging concern in a mixed use watershed. Science of the Total Environment. 505:896-904.
Chintala, R., Owen, R.K., Schumacher, T.E., Spokas, K.A., McDonald, L.M., Kumar, S., Clay, D.E., Malo, D.D., Bleakley, B. 2014. Denitrification kinetics in biomass and biochar amended soils of different landscape positions. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 22:5152-5163. DOI: 10.1007/s11356-014-3762-2.
Karpuzca, E., Fairbairn, D., Arnold, W., Barber, B., Kaufenberg, E., Koskinen, W.C., Novak, P., Rice, P.J., Swackhamer, D. 2014. Identifying sources of emerging organic contaminants in a mixed use watershed using principal components analysis. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. 16:2390-2399.
Hall, K.E., Ray, C., Ki, S., Spokas, K.A., Koskinen, W.C. 2015. Pesticide sorption and leaching potential on three Hawaiian soils. Journal of Environmental Management. 159:227-234.
Jeffery, S., Abalos, D., Spokas, K.A., Verheijen, F. 2015. Biochar effects on crop yield. In: Lehmann, J., Joseph, S., editors. Biochar for Environmental Management: Science, Technology and Implementation. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. p. 301-326.
Thomazini, A., Spokas, K.A., Hall, K.E., Ippolito, J.A., Lentz, R.D., Novak, J.M. 2015. GHG impacts of biochar: Predictability for the same biochar. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 207:183-191.
Spokas, K.A., Bogner, J., Corcoran, M., Walker, S. 2015. From California dreaming to California data: Challenging historic models for landfill CH4 emissions. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. DOI: 10.12952/journal.elementa.000051.
Thomazini, A., De Sa Mendonca, E., De Bortoli Teixeixa, D., Carreiro Almeida, C., La Scala, N., Spokas, K.A., Pasqualoto Canellas, L., Millori, D. 2015. CO2 and N2O emissions in a soil chronosequence at a glacier retreat zone in Maritime Antarctica. Science of the Total Environment. 521-522:336-345.
Yargicoglu, E.N., Sadasivam, B., Reddy, K.R., Spokas, K.A. 2015. Physical and chemical characterization of waste wood derived biochars. Waste Management. 36:256-268.