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

Research Project: PRACTICES TO PROTECT WATER QUALITY AND CONSERVE SOIL AND WATER RESOURCES IN AGRONOMIC AND HORTICULTURAL SYSTEMS IN THE NORTH CENTRAL US

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

2016 Annual Report


1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
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.


1b. Approach (from AD-416):
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.


3. Progress Report:
• Objective 1a: This objective concerns the development of supplemental irrigation strategies for corn and soybeans in perennial living mulch systems. We now have two years of data for corn and one year of data for soybeans. The current year (2016) is the second year with soybean production, which now gives us data for two full crop rotation cycles. • Objective 1b: Monitoring of tile drainage flow and water quality continued (6th year) for center pivot dairy slurry fertigation of silage corn. However, equipment failure forced the collaborating producer to switch to commercial fertilizer, essentially shortening the experiment. Research efforts to optimize reactive N use on dairy operations are being coordinated with four other ARS locations thru the Dairy Agroecological Working Group (DAWG). • Objective 2a: Water, sediment and passive samplers were collected from sub-watershed sites to evaluate the occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern in surface waters as associated with surrounding land uses. Chemical analysis of sample extracts has been completed for the initial suites of emerging contaminants (e.g., veterinary pharmaceuticals, hormones, and pesticides). Chemical and data analysis for additional contaminants of concern are on-going. Manuscripts have been written and published reporting the occurrence of contaminants in surface water and sediments. • Objective 2b: Research continued comparing the off-site transport of pesticides and nutrients with runoff from traditional creeping bentgrass turf verses low-input fine fescue turf maintained as a golf course fairway. Results of this study will determine which turf system is most effective at reducing the offsite transport of contaminants with runoff. Samples have been collected for a second field season. Sample processing, extraction and analysis are in progress. Additional studies were performed to evaluate the efficacy of turf buffers to mitigate the off-site transport of pesticides with runoff. Buffers with different flow lengths were evaluated. Chemical analysis of samples from the initial study has been completed. Replicate experiments are on-going. Biochar amendments will be evaluated in the laboratory in soil columns, due to the use of 14C labeled pesticides for assessing the impact of biochar on transport. Initial laboratory assessments were initiated of both water sorption and water immersion behavior of biochar. Data collection is on-going and a manuscript is being prepared to summarize these results. Research continued on the alterations in hydraulic properties of the soil system following biochar additions. This work has led to the preparation of a manuscript that will be submitted by the end of the year. • Objective 2c: Our plan was to initiate a replicated plot experiment in the fall of 2015 at the Rosemount, MN research station to examine the effectiveness of using nitrification inhibitor for reducing nitrogen losses from fall-applied anhydrous ammonia. To prepare for this study, newly established fields were maintained under uniform nitrogen and crop management across all plots in order to decrease any artifacts of previous management history. However, the field experiment will be delayed by an additional growing season due to unexpected complications with fertilization applications late in the seasson. In lieu of the field experiments, we conducted additional experiments in the laboratory comparing the effectiveness of different nitrification inhibitor products combined with different nitrogen fertilizer sources on rates of nitrate accumulation in amended soil. • Objective 2d: Work was continued on the impact of field aging on the sorption properties of biochar; including the sorption of pesticides to biochar both fresh and aged as well as assessing the importance of aging in the observed sorption behavior. Very little attention has been focused on the different chemical structures or optical isomers that exist with agrochemicals. The structure differences can control their fate in the soil system. We completed a collaborative project examining the impact of three different amendments (organoclays and a biochar) on the sorption and degradation of two optical isomers of the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA). These data show that different soil amendments could impact the distribution in the optical isomers and this can alter the distribution of the isomers remaining in the soil system and thus have impacts on the biological activity. New collaborations have been established with Canada, Congo, and South Korea to jointly examine alterations in hydraulic properties and sorption behavior following biochar additions, to encompass a wider variety of soil types.


4. Accomplishments
1. Land use and the occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern in surface waters. Contaminants of emerging concern (biologically active compounds originating from agricultural, residential, and industrial sources) have been detected in surface waters worldwide and may result in direct aquatic toxicity or invoke endocrine disruption or induction of antibiotic resistance. For two years, ARS researchers from St. Paul, Minnesota collected water and sediment samples from four stream sites, with varied surrounding land use, for extraction and analysis of 26 contaminants of emerging concern (e.g. veterinary/human pharmaceuticals, pesticides, phytoestrogens, personal care products, and commercial/industrial compounds). Two agricultural herbicides were amongst the five most commonly detected contaminants with their highest concentrations associated with spring and summer high flow periods, while several antibiotics were detected less frequently but at the greatest concentrations amongst the contaminants evaluated. Personal care products were significantly elevated in water or sediment at sites with greater population density and percentage of developed land use. Overall our results indicate that monitoring studies for contaminants of emerging concern should consider a range of land uses, seasonality, and transport pathways in relation to concentrations and loadings for more accurate source, occurrence, and ecological risk characterizations to more precisely target mitigation initiatives.

2. Agricultural residues improve bioreactor nitrate removal at low temperatures. Nitrate losses in drainage waters from the Upper Mississippi River Basin are highest in spring when temperatures are low and flow rates are high. These factors retard biological removal of nitrate by the process of microbial denitrification in woodchip-based bioreactors. ARS scientists in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Ames, Iowa, compared agricultural residues – corn cobs, corn stover, barley straw – to woodchips for capacity to support denitrification in early spring (1.5°C) and summer (15°C). The nitrogen removal rates for agricultural residues were higher than for woodchips, consistent with higher bacterial populations. Removal rates for the agricultural residues were much lower at the colder temperature even though bacterial populations were equivalent, suggesting that dissolved carbon availability limited denitrification rather than microbial biomass. Production of nitrous oxide relative to nitrate removal was greater at 1.5°C compared to 15°C and greater for woodchips compared to corn cobs or corn stover. The study serves to inform policy makers, engineers, and field technicians about the range of expected results using various carbon sources to support nitrate removal in denitrifying bioreactors.

3. Changes in sorption of fresh and aged biochars. The environmental risk of applied pesticides to soils is often assessed through sorption experiments to guide field management decisions. This is particularly important when decided on various organic amendments to add to soil to reduce leaching and run-off risks. However, a large number of current studies only examine the fresh or non-aged amendment. Researchers from ARS at St. Paul, Minnesota, looked at the impact of field-weathering on biochar, since both the physical and chemical properties of biochar will impact the observed sorption trends. We examined a macadamia nut shell biochar that was recovered from field plots at 1, 2, and 5 year time periods. Changes in sorption/availability of a herbicide (metolachlor) increased with incubation time to a greater extent in amended soil as compared to unamended soils; the sorption coefficient did decrease as a function of the age of the biochar. These data show that transport models would not accurately predict the herbicide movement in soil if effects of aging or biochar amendments are not considered. These results are significant to farmers and policy makers and will assist scientists and engineers in developing improved models for assessing agrochemical leaching risks based on mechanistic processes, which should be utilized in developing improved assessments of the fate and transport of applied agrochemicals.

4. The relative importance of local versus oceanic sources of water vapor. As the earth's surface warms, climate models predict that there will be changes in the hydrologic cycle that could have important consequences for agricultural production, particularly in the U.S. Corn Belt, where 75% of crop insurance claims are water-related. A major unanswered question is the extent to which atmospheric changes will be tempered by terrestrial ecosystems, i.e. - feedback effects. ARS scientists in St. Paul, Minnesota, collected several years of measurements of the regional water vapor isotope composition of the atmosphere from a 185 m radio tower in Minnesota and used the results in conjunction with atmospheric models and ancillary ground-based measurements to determine the importance of local and regional scale processes versus larger-scale motion (transport of ocean-derived water vapor) in determining regional humidity in the planetary boundary layer. Results show that oceanic sources predominate during the non-growing season, but during the growing season regional evapotranspiration can provide essentially half of the water vapor in the boundary layer, with a seasonal growing season averaging a third. These results suggest that land use changes such as increased irrigation or adoption of management practices that extend the growing season, such as cover crops, may exert an impact on atmospheric processes by increasing boundary layer water vapor content.


5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations:
Served as a scientific advisor for a project between the city of Minneapolis and the Native American tribes on the use of biochar in their composting and agricultural operations.


Review Publications
Fairbairn, D., Arnold, W., Barber, B., Kaufenberg, E., Koskinen, W.C., Novak, P., Rice, P.J., Swackhamer, D. 2016. Contaminants of emerging concern: Mass balance and comparison of wastewater effluent and upstream sources in a mixed-use watershed. Environmental Science and Technology. 50(1):36-45. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b03109.
Fairbairn, D., Karpuzcu, E., Arnold, W., Barber, B., Kaufenberg, E., Koskinen, W.C., Novak, P., Rice, P.J., Swackhamer, D. 2016. Contaminants of emerging concern in a mixed land use watershed: A two year study of occurrence and seasonal variation. Science of the Total Environment. 551-552:605-613.
Feyereisen, G.W., Moorman, T.B., Christianson, L.E., Venterea, R.T., Coulter, J.A., Tschirner, U.W. 2016. Performance of agricultural residue media in laboratory denitrifying bioreactors at low temperatures. Journal of Environmental Quality. 45:779-787.
Griffis, T.J., Wood, J.D., Baker, J.M., Lee, X., Xiao, K., Chen, Z., Welp, L.R., Schultz, N. 2016. Investigating the source, transport, and isotope composition of water vapor in the planetary boundary layer. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 16:5139-5157.
Lim, T., Spokas, K.A., Feyereisen, G.W., Novak, J.M. 2015. Predicting the impact of biochar additions on soil hydraulic properties. Chemosphere. 142:136-144.
Novak, J.M., Sigua, G.C., Spokas, K.A., Hunt, P.G., Glaz, B.S., Watts, D.W., Cantrell, K.B., Busscher, W.J. 2014. Plant macro- and micronutrient dynamics in a biochar-amended wetland muck. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. Doi 10.1007/s11270-014-2228-y.
Novak, J.M., Ro, K.S., Ok, Y.S., Sigua, G.C., Spokas, K.A., Uchimiya, S.M., Bolan, N. 2016. Biochars multifunctional role as a novel technology in the agricultural, environmental, and industrial sectors. Chemosphere. 142:1-3.
Novak, J.M., Sigua, G.C., Watts, D.W., Cantrell, K., Shumaker, P.D., Szogi, A.A., Johnson, M., Spokas, K.A. 2016. Biochars impact on water infiltration and water quality through a compacted subsoil layer. Chemosphere. 142:160-167.
Ro, K.S., Novak, J.M., Johnson, M.G., Szogi, A.A., Libra, J.A., Spokas, K.A., Bae, S. 2015. Leachate water quality of soils amended with different swine manure-based amendments. Chemosphere. 142:92-99. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.05.023.
Trigo, C., Spokas, K.A., Hall, K.E., Cox, L., Koskinen, W.C. 2016. Metolachlor sorption and degradation in soil amended with fresh and aged biochar. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 64(16):3141-3149.
Wang, Q., Gao, S., Wang, D., Spokas, K.A., Cao, A., Yan, D. 2016. The mechanisms for 1,3-dichloropropene dissipation in biochar-amended soils. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 64(12):2531-2540.
Williams, A., Davis, A.S., Ewing, P., Forcella, F., Grandy, S., Kane, D., Mortensen, D., Smith, R., Spokas, K.A., Jordan, N.R. 2016. A comparison of soil hydrothermal properties in zonal and uniform tillage systems across the northern U.S. corn belt. Soil and Tillage Research. 273:12-1.
Zeckoski, R.W., Smolen, M., Moriasi, D.N., Frankenberger, J., Feyereisen, G.W. 2015. Hydrologic and water quality terminology as applied to modeling. Transactions of the ASABE. 58(6):1619-1635. doi: 10.13031/trans.58.10713.
Porfiri, C., Montoya, J.C., Koskinen, W.C., Azcarate, P. 2015. Adsorption and transport of imazapyr through intact soils columns taken from two soils under two tillage systems. Geoderma. 251-252:1-9.
Calderon, M.J., Real, M., Cabrera, A., Koskinen, W.C., Cornejo, J., Hermosin, M.C. 2015. Influence of olive oil mill waste amendment on fate of oxyfluorfen in Southern Spain soils. Clean (Soil Air Water). 43(7):1107-1113.
Alonso, D.G., Oliveira, R.S., Hall, K.E., Koskinen, W.C., Constantin, J. 2015. Changes in sorption of indaziflam and three transformation products in soil with aging. Geoderma. 239-240:250-256.
Trigo, C., Koskinen, W.C., Kookana, R. 2014. Sorption-desorption of indaziflam and its three metabolites in sandy soils. Journal of Environmental Science and Health. 49(11):836-843.
Alonso, D.G., Oliveira, R.S., Koskinen, W.C., Constantin, J., Hall, K.E., Mislankar, S. 2016. Sorption and desorption of indaziflam degradates in several agricultural soils. Scientia Agricola. 73(2):169-176.
Ippolito, J.A., Spokas, K.A., Novak, J.M., Lentz, R.D., Cantrell, K.B. 2015. Biochar elemental composition and factors influencing nutrient retention. In: Lehmann, J., Joseph, S., editors. Biochar for Environmental Management: Science, technology, and implementation. 2nd edition. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 137-161.