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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Preserving Water Quality and Availability for Agriculture in the Lower Mississippi River Basin

Location: Delta Water Management Research

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Objective 1: Conduct hydrological system studies to measure, model and predict the impact of current and innovative farming practices and associated ground and surface water withdrawals on water availability and quality. (1.1.5, 1.2.1) 1a: Improve the quantification of the on-farm water balance. 1b: Modify existing hydrology models to improve simulations of water quantity. Objective 2: Develop economical and environmentally sound irrigation and drainage management tools, practices, and technologies that conserve water and protect regional water resources and supplies. (1.1.2, 1.3.1, 1.3.2) 2a: Quantify water quantity and quality as a result of the implementation of conservation practices. 2b: Test the practice of incorporating existing soil moisture technology in agricultural water management to reduce irrigation water use.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
To preserve the quantity and quality of irrigation water supplies in the Lower Mississippi River Basin, it is necessary to consider the range of crops, soils, and production systems; the types of irrigation and drainage systems employed; the level of runoff water recycling employed; and the different water sources available. This project will address ways to improve the sustainability of groundwater supplies by investigating alternative irrigation methods for the crops currently produced in the region. Production system evaluations will include on-farm research with active participation by crop producers and crop advisors. Data collected from on-farm evaluations will be used to inform, enhance and validate existing hydrology models. Findings from this research are expected to reduce agricultural reliance on groundwater and improve water resources management, inform decision makers of potential impacts of conservation practices, and arm producers with tools and technologies that conserve water resources while maintaining crop yield.

3. Progress Report:
The plan highlights research projects to study water quantity and water quality in the Lower Mississippi River Basin as a result of conservation practices and the implementation of technology and innovation in farm management. A detailed water balance study is described and all findings will be used to inform hydrologic modeling in an agricultural setting. The research identifies several collaboration relationships between USDA-ARS-Jonesboro and other USDA-ARS units in individual projects and three multi-location research projects. Collaborative relationships have been established with Arkansas State University, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), local conservation groups and local farm managers. The SY is a collaborator on a successful grant for research related to the irrigation management; Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) (Arkansas State University). The research project is a collaborative effort between USDA-ARS, USDA-NRCS, Judd Hill Foundation, Delta Plastics, University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University. The SY collaborated with various working groups on the monitoring component of nine separate Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) proposals. Five proposals were funded for FY 2012-2015: Middle Cache River Project, Tyronza River Watershed, Grande Prairie Watershed, Bayou Meto, Arkansas County, and Bayou Meto, Middle. The SY is a co-principal investigator on a Conservation Innovation Grant proposal: “Building the capacity for edge-of-field monitoring of conservation through field demonstration, regional coordination, training and outreach”. Collaborators include University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University. The SY submitted a grant proposal to the producer state support program of Cotton, Inc. to improve irrigation water management practices for Arkansas cotton growers. The SY was invited to participate in a grantsmanship workshop through the Southern Region Directors of Research and Extension to develop a multi-state proposal that address regional concerns entitled “Addressing the fate of nutrients in the Lower Mississippi River Valley to the Gulf of Mexico”. The SY gave an invited field presentation to approximately 60 participants on a watershed tour for Arkansas state senate and congressional members of agricultural committees in Jonesboro, AR, in July 2012. The SY presented virtual training to approximately 10 extension personnel on the use and implementation of an irrigation planning tool. The SY was invited to meet with state senator’s staff to discuss agricultural needs of the region in April 2012. The SY was invited to present on irrigation techniques for the Fayetteville Army Reserve in June 2012. The SY attended an irrigation meeting for regional research and extension to discuss irrigation scheduling in St. Louis, MO, in June 2012.

4. Accomplishments
1. Water quantity and water quality monitoring sites established. Site-specific water quantity and water quality data collected from production-sized fields will be used quantify the benefit from conservation practices and will inform watershed models and remote sensing techniques. ARS scientist from the National Sedimentation Laboratory worksite in Jonesboro, AR, established 25 monitoring stations in northeastern Arkansas to collect data on water quantity and water quality associated with the production of rice, soybean and cotton. Initial findings indicate that conservation practices will help reduce excess nutrients and improve water use efficiency. Quantifying water use and water quality at the field scale and up-scaling using modeling and remote sensing will lend insight water resources management in the region.

Review Publications
Flerchinger, G.N., M.L. Reba, and D. Marks. 2012. Measurement of surface energy fluxes from two rangeland sites and comparison with a multilayer canopy model. Journal of Hydrometeorology 13(3):1038-1051, doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-11-093.1.

Last Modified: 09/19/2017
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