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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #429615

Research Project: An Examination of the Autochthonous Sources of Urea in Watersheds and Potential Role of Microbial Activity

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-13000-014-09-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2015
End Date: Aug 31, 2019

Objective:
Goal 1 – Determine similarities between potential urea sources in a model watershed system, Objective 1 – At selected sites that include agricultural drainage ditches, low lying forested areas, wetlands determine microbial, environmental and chemical changes through the spring, summer, and fall, Objective 2 – Correlate those microbial, environmental, and chemical changes with urea concentrations to establish relationships and identify potential key microbial elements that are associated with urea production. Goal 2 – Determine potential processes that result in the formation of urea from other forms of nitrogen in ditches Objective 1 – Within three agricultural ditches that retain water through the spring, summer, and fall track changes in microbial, environmental, and chemical changes following two rain events, Objective 2 – Correlate those microbial, environmental, and chemical changes with urea concentrations to establish relationships and identify potential key microbial elements that are associated with urea production. Goal 3 – Determine if the relationships found in goals 1 and 2 can be recreated under laboratory conditions. Objective 1 – Using mesocosms developed from unattended agricultural ditches, track changes in microbial, environmental, and chemical changes, Objective 2 – Correlate those microbial, environmental, and chemical changes with the production of urea. Goal 4 – Provide academic, research, and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, especially minorities, Objective 1 – Provide undergraduate and doctoral level students an opportunity to pursue a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) discipline degree, Objective 2 – Provide opportunities for oral and/or poster presentations of data results at various mainstream conferences, e.g., Tri-Societies of American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), Association of 1890 Research Directors, Inc. (ARD) Research Symposium, etc.

Approach:
At selected sites that include agricultural drainage ditches, low lying forested areas, and wetlands, we will sample stagnant surface water for ammonium, nitrate, total nitrogen (N), and urea; water quality parameters that are associated with microbial activity (e.g., pH, eH, salinity, dissolved oxygen, dissolved carbon) and microbes (soil/sediment samples). Within three agricultural ditches that retain water through the spring, summer, and fall we will track changes in microbial, environmental, and chemical changes following two rain events. We will correlate those microbial, environmental, and chemical changes with urea concentrations to establish relationships and identify potential key microbial elements that are associated with urea production. Using experimental mesocosms, we will reconstruct conditions found in drainage ditches, low lying forested areas, wetlands and grasslands and expose these systems to solutions of ammonium, nitrite, or nitrates to determine the rate and amount of urea formation. We will provide undergraduate and doctoral level students an opportunity to pursue STEAM discipline degrees.