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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #427509

Research Project: Tactical and Systemic Management of Nutrients to Balance Water Quality and Agricultural Production Priorities

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-13000-014-03-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2014
End Date: Aug 31, 2019

Objective:
This project expands collaborative research under Penn State’s Center for Nutrient Solutions and the nascent Long Term Agroecological Research (LTAR) network. Objective 1: Optimize “tactical” best management practices. Work within each of the Upper Chesapeake Bay LTAR watersheds to identify alternative suites of practices that can be expected to be adopted under existing systems and constraints. Objective 2: Define “strategic” barriers to addressing water quality problems. Identify the boundaries of existing nutrient management systems that must be removed to achieve maximum potential for optimized tactical nutrient management options to improve health of the Bay and tributaries. Objective 3: Develop communication materials to explain to stakeholders and the general public the tactical and strategic issues facing nutrient management, including fundamental trade-offs in food production and water quality. Objective 4: Develop new modeling, laboratory, and field techniques to assess ties between improved nutrient management and water quality.

Approach:
Objective 1: Suites of management options will be delimited for each of the four Upper Chesapeake Bay LTAR watersheds, based on impacts on ecosystem services (emphasizing local water quality and stream health), local economies, and community function. Develop optimal tactical management approaches through iterative assessment of trade-offs and identify barriers to alternative approaches that would yield greater water quality benefits but would require changes not feasible under existing economic, policy, and production systems. Objective 2: Identify strategic barriers that can be linked to other LTAR sites, using case studies from each of the Upper Chesapeake LTAR watersheds. Conduct optimization and economic analyses to develop cost effective, nutrient management plans that balance practices with social and economic priorities for representative watersheds in each of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s major physiographic provinces. Objective 3: Work with Penn State Public Broadcasting to develop a short (5 minute) summary of the tactical and strategic barriers to nutrient management. Objective 4: Refine routines with the Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to enhance optimization research and to better document uncertainties. Evaluate nutrient controls on local aquatic communities using periphytometers, flume experiments, and new ion chromatography techniques for detecting nutrient species.