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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #432574

Research Project: Sustaining Agroecosystems and Water Resources in the Northeastern U.S.

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

2018 Annual Report

Objective 1: Describe and quantify processes controlling agriculturally related environmental contaminants (C, N, and P) to reduce inputs to receiving waters (C2, PS 2.1). Subobjective 1.1: Characterize chemical, physical and biological controls of contaminant mobility and transport in water at pedon, field, landscape and watershed scales. Subobjective 1.2: Characterize the spatial nature and temporal dynamics of transport pathways connecting sources of key agricultural contaminants with surface and ground waters. Objective 2: Adapt and develop management practices that farmers can use to reduce the environmental impacts of agriculturally derived contaminants on receiving waters (C1: PS 1.5; C2: PS 2.4; C3: PS 3.1 and 3.2; C4: PS 4.2). Subobjective 2.1: Identify, evaluate, and develop fertilizer, manure, tillage, irrigation and drainage management practices that improve production use efficiency and minimize off site transfers to surface and ground waters. Subobjective 2.2: Develop new technologies, management practices and decision support tools that recognize the spatial variability of the landscape and focus mitigating efforts on critical source areas or critical pathways. Objective 3: Conduct plot, field and watershed studies to understand processes that link cranberry production to water resources and develop appropriate conservation practices to protect water quality (C1: PS 1.5; C2: PS 2.4; C3: PS 3.1 and 3.2; C4: PS 4.2; NP305 C1: PS 1B). Subobjective 3.1: Characterize temporal and spatial patterns of N and P discharge from cranberry farms. Subobjective 3.2: Develop new technologies and management practices that improve water quality and enhance water use efficiency on cranberry farms. Objective 4: As part of the LTAR network, and in concert with similar long-term, land-based research infrastructure in the mid-Atlantic Region, use the Upper Chesapeake Bay Experimental Watersheds LTAR site to improve the observational capabilities and data accessibility of the LTAR network and support research to sustain or enhance agricultural production and environmental quality in agroecosystems characteristic of the region. Research and data collection are planned and implemented based on the LTAR site application and in accordance with the responsibilities outlined in the LTAR Shared Research Strategy, a living document that serves as a roadmap for LTAR implementation. Participation in the LTAR network includes research and data management in support of the ARS GRACEnet and/or Livestock GRACEnet projects. (C4: PS 4.1; NP 212 C1: PS 1B; NP 216 C5: PS 5A) Subobjective 4.1: Support the LTAR common observatory by monitoring and modeling long term changes affecting water resources and contributing to LTAR’s common database. Subobjective 4.2: Support LTAR’s common experiment and Dairy Agro-ecological Working Group (DAWG) water research objectives by comparing water resource impacts of a long term conventional dairy forage rotation (corn, soybean, and alfalfa) with a diversified dairy forage rotation that, in addition, includes winter cover crops, perennial grasses for bioenergy feedstock, and grazed pasture.

Research will span the Chesapeake Bay and Buzzards Bay watersheds, relying upon core sites in the Atlantic Coastal Plain (Manokin watershed, MD; Buzzards Bay watershed, MA), Appalachian Piedmont (Conewago watershed, PA), Appalachian Valley and Ridge (Mahantango Creek watershed, PA and Spring Creek watershed, PA), and Allegheny Plateau (Anderson Creek watershed, PA). Research emphases will vary across these locations, reflecting issues that are of current management or scientific relevance as well as constraints imposed by available resources. Our primary distinction is between the Atlantic Coastal Plain (in the Chesapeake and Buzzards Bay watersheds) and the upland physiographic areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, as hydrologic flow paths are dramatically different in these landscapes (subsurface flow is the dominant hydrologic pathway in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, whereas overland and shallow lateral flows are the major pathways in the upland provinces). We have landowner contacts and research collaborators at all major (core) sites and have a research infrastructure that enables routine measurement and chemical sampling of surface runoff, subsurface flow, and stream flow. When necessary, we move infrastructure from one location to another to provide a greater intensity of observations. We combine field observations with laboratory experiments in which greater control may be obtained over indirect variables. Our process-oriented research (Objective 1) involves observational and experimental studies, using parametric and nonparametric statistics to quantify temporal and spatial trends or to determine differences between management/land use, landscape units, and watershed components. Our applied research (Objectives 2-4) includes experimental studies, remote sensing and modeling. Experimentation involves a high degree of replication due to the inherent variability in processes impacting water quality. We have strong in-house statistical capability and, when necessary, consult with outside statisticians to ensure confidence in our findings.

Progress Report
A manuscript reporting the findings from characterization of the nine wetlands from the Delmarva area is in review. In-field measurements of nitrogen (N) dynamics around manure injection slots are in progress as planned. The collection of soil monoliths representing manure injection was delayed due to needed repairs to the gas monitoring equipment needed for monitoring the soil monoliths. Monolith collection will commence this fall after crop removal and fall manure application. Field site monitoring and mesocosm studies point to microbial processes under anaerobic conditions and high concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and/or organic nitrogen as the dominant terrestrial source of urea. Stream and seep monitoring for nitrogen fluxes initiated in year 1 are continuing and solute injection studies have begun. To date, the transit time modeling has largely been accomplished in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University (JHU). A PhD student studying under JHU has been using ranked StorAge Selection (rSAS) models to estimate transit time distributions in the WE-38 watershed using long-term chloride data in precipitation and stream water. JHU is assessing these transit time estimates using results from ParFlow, a fully integrated hydrologic model that supports particle tracking. Transects of nested wells, intended to support age dating of shallow groundwater, will be installed in late summer or fall, 2018. Tracer studies on the Delmarva are confirming shallow groundwater movement rates and pathways determined by time-lapse ERI monitoring. Isotope hydrograph separations during storms in which time-lapse ERI data are collected have also been initiated. Initial estimates of pollution reduction efficiencies and cost/benefit analyses of manure injection have been completed; the long-term study is continuing. Subobjective 2.1 “Winter cover crops and timing of fall manure application” was modified to investigate impacts of cover crop harvest as forage, a more timely information need for regional farmers. Rye cover crop terminated with herbicide and residues is compared to rye allowed to grow longer and harvested as forage. Manure is applied immediately after silage corn harvest and before cover crop establishment in both treatments. Water quality monitoring and other measurements continue as outlined in the project plan. Soils from the gypsum rate study have been collected and submitted for soil test analyses to determine whether all gypsum from previous surface application has dissolved. If so, gypsum applications will be repeated, and phosphorus (P) losses and corn yield will be monitored in 2018. We determined that diatomaceous earth used in the MAPHEX (MAnure PHosphorus EXtraction) system is reusable after incineration to remove organics. Multiple CRADA opportunities are being explored. MAPHEX testing on swine manure will commence in July or August. The N reducing bioreactor study resulted in three innovative designs for bioreactors that successfully reduced nitrates on the Eastern Shore. A field day introduced the new designs to conservationists, a manuscript was published, and bioreactors were adopted as an interim practice for use in the next version of the Chesapeake Bay model. An evaluation of water quality benefits of 150 riparian buffer sites demonstrated the need to better integrate riparian buffers with other conservation practices in adjacent uplands to ensure their effectiveness. Runoff forecasting tools are being tested in select watersheds, and the SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) model has been initialized in LTAR (Long-Term Agroecosystem Research) basins. A ground penetrating radar survey of cranberry bogs was conducted; soil cores were collected and analyzed for nutrient concentrations. Flow monitoring data from cranberry bogs were analyzed and water budgets were constructed. Phosphorus sorbing amendments were applied to surface water in irrigation holding ponds as part of a demonstration of cranberry production practices that improve water quality. A frequent grab sampling and analysis regimen for the real time sensing test site is continuing. Some high frequency monitoring sensors have been deployed, and the ion chromatography sensor is scheduled for deployment this summer. SWAT modeling in LTAR basins has been initiated to simulate impacts on hydrology and water quality under current management and under probable climate change scenarios suggested by a review of the literature. All planned activities related to the LTAR common experiment site at Rock Springs are completed and on schedule.

1. Nitrogen management in cranberry bogs. Nutrient management of cranberry bogs is an important part of comprehensive nitrogen (N) reduction strategy in watersheds where cranberries are grown in Massachusetts. A team of ARS scientists, in collaboration with NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), the University of Massachusetts, and local cranberry growers, analyzed over 500 cranberry bogs and discovered that the majority of N is stored in ancient swamp deposits of peat, which could explain why spring N losses generally exceed losses tied to summer fertilizer applications. This basic understanding of N sources and dynamics in cranberry bogs forms the basis for developing new conservation practices that effectively target the largest source of N release from commercial cranberry bogs.

2. Removing nitrate from drainage waters in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. In the Midwest, nitrate-reducing bioreactors are proven conservation practices for removing nitrates from agricultural drainage waters, and these practices are needed on the Eastern Shore to address nitrate loads entering the Chesapeake Bay. However, very low slope gradients in these landscapes pose a challenge for getting water to move through a bioreactor of standard design. Therefore, ARS scientists at University Park, Pennsylvania collaborated with university scientists in the region to develop new bioreactor designs based on known principles of nitrate removal and demonstrated the potential for adapting bioreactors for use on the Eastern Shore. As a result, producers and conservationists now have a new, powerful tool for reducing nitrate loads to the Chesapeake Bay.

Review Publications
Church, C., Hristov, A.N., Bryant, R.B., Kleinman, P.J., Fishel, S.K., Reiner, M.R. 2018. Versatility of the manure phosphorus extraction (MAPHEX) system in removing phosphorus, odor, microbes, and alkalinity from dairy manures: A four-farm case study. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 34(3):567-572.
Dell, C.J., Gollany, H.T., Adler, P.R., Skinner, H., Polumsky, R.W. 2018. Implications of observed and simulated soil carbon sequestration for management options in corn-based rotations. Journal of Environmental Quality. 47(4):617-624.
Kennedy, C.D., Wilderotter, S.M., Payne, P.M., Buda, A.R., Kleinman, P.J., Bryant, R.B. 2018. A geospatial model to quantify mean thickness of peat in cranberry bogs. Geoderma. 319:122-131.
Cade-Menun, B.J., Elkin, K.R., Liu, C.W., Bryant, R.B., Kleinman, P.J., Moore Jr, P.A. 2018. Characterizing the phosphorus forms extracted from soil by the Mehlich III soil test. Trade Journal Publication. 19(7):1-17.
Holly, M.A., Kleinman, P.J., Bryant, R.B., Bjorneberg, D.L., Rotz, C.A., Baker, J.M., Boggess, M.V., Brauer, D.K., Chintala, R., Feyereisen, G.W., Gamble, J.D., Leytem, A.B., Reed, K., Vadas, P.A., Waldrip, H. 2018. Identifying challenges and opportunities for improved nutrient management through U.S.D.A's Dairy Agroecosystem Working Group. Journal of Dairy Science. 101(7):6632-6641.
Kleinman, P.J., Sharpley, A.N., Buda, A.R., Easton, Z.M., Lory, J.A., Osmond, D.L., Radcliffe, D.E., Nelson, N.O., Veith, T.L., Doody, D.G. 2017. The promise, practice and state of planning tools to assess site vulnerability to runoff phosphorus loss. Journal of Environmental Quality. 46(6):1243-1249.
Prasad, R., Gunn, K.M., Rotz, C.A., Karsten, H., Roth, G., Buda, A.R., Stoner, A. 2018. Projected climate and agronomic implications for corn production in the Northeastern United States. Global Change Biology. 13(6):e0198623.
Hristov, A., Degaetano, A., Rotz, C.A., Felix, T., Skinner, R.H., Li, H., Patterson, P., Roth, G., Hall, M., Ott, T., Baumgard, L., Staniar, W., Hulet, R., Dell, C.J., Brito, A., Hollinger, D. 2017. Climate change effects on livestock in the Northeast U.S. and strategies for adaptation. Climatic Change.
Liu, J., Kleinman, P.J., Aronsson, H., Bechmann, M., Geegle, D., Bryant, R.B., Flaten, D., Liu, H., Mcdowell, R., Robinson, T., Sharpley, A., Veith, T.L. 2018. A review of regulations and guidelines related to winter manure application. Ambio. 1-14.
Liu, J., Veith, T.L., Collick, A.S., Kleinman, P.J., Beegle, D.B., Bryant, R.B. 2017. Seasonal manure application timing and storage effects on field and watershed level phosphorus losses. Journal of Environmental Quality. 46:1403-1412. doi: 10.2134/jeq2017.04.0150.
Veith, T.L., Goslee, S.C., Beegle, D.B., Weld, J.L., Kleinman, P.J. 2017. Analyzing the distribution of hydrogeomorphic characteristics across Pennsylvania as a precursor to phosphorus index modifications. Journal of Environmental Quality. 46:1365-1371. doi: 10.2134/jeq2016.10.0416.
Kennedy, C.D., Alverson, N., Jeranyama, P., Demoranville, C. 2018. Seasonal dynamics of water and nutrient fluxes is an agricultural peatland. Hydrological Processes.
Kennedy, C.D., Kleinman, P.J., Demoranville, C.J., Elkin, K.R., Bryant, R.B., Buda, A.R. 2017. Managing surface water inputs to reduce phosphorus loss from Cranberry farms. Journal of Environmental Quality. 46:1472-1479. doi: 10.2134/jeq2017.04.0134.
Sharpley, A., Kleinman, P.J., Baffaut, C., Beegle, D., Bolster, C.H., Collick, A., Easton, Z., Lory, J., Nelson, N., Osmond, D., Radcliffe, D., Veith, T.L., Weld, J. 2017. Evaluation of phosphorus site assessment tools: lessons from the USA. Journal of Environmental Quality. doi: 10.2134/jeq2016.11.0427.
Elkin, K.R., Bryant, R.B., Kleinman, P.J., Moore Jr, P.A., Cade-Menun, B.J. 2018. Characterizing the phosphorus forms extracted from soil by the Mehlich III soil test. Geochemical Transactions. 19:7.
Liu, J., Spargo, J.T., Kleinman, P.J., Meinen, R., Moore Jr, P.A., Beegle, D.B. 2018. Water extractable phosphorus in animal manure and manure compost: quantities, characteristics, and temporal changes. Journal of Environmental Quality. 47(3):471-479.
Wagena, M.B., Collick, A., Ross, A.C., Rau, B., Sommerlot, A., Fuka, D.R., Najjar, R.G., Kleinman, P.J., Easton, Z.M. 2018. Impact of climate change and climate anomalies on hydrologic and biogeochemical processes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Science of the Total Environment. 637-638:1443-1454.