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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #441760

Research Project: Assessment of Sediment and Chemical Transport Processes for Developing and Improving Agricultural Conservation Practices

Location: National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory

2022 Annual Report

Objective 1: Quantify physical and chemical processes affecting sediment and nutrient transport in surface and subsurface waters. Sub-objective 1.A: Determine the dominant flow pathways for water and nutrient transport in tile-drained headwater watersheds. Sub-objective 1.B: Quantify the effects of landscape, surface, and climate conditions on erosion and related processes. Sub-objective 1.C: Evaluate how flow characteristics impact the ability of soils to behave as nutrient sources and sinks. Objective 2: Evaluate and improve the efficacy of novel soil and water conservation practices. Sub-objective 2.A: Optimize and demonstrate phosphorus removal structures and sorption materials for removing pollutants from water. Sub-objective 2.B: Determine effects of combined management practices on water quality. Objective 3: Enhance soil erosion and water quality models for improved predictions and management of agricultural and forested lands. Sub-objective 3.A: Improve natural resource model functionality and performance. (This is a non-hypothesis research sub-objective.) Sub-objective 3.B: Application of natural resource models and develop modeling techniques. Objective 4: Utilize long-term field and watershed datasets to enhance agricultural production and environmental quality in agroecosystems, and facilitate and support collaborations through the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network. Sub-objective 4.A: Monitor fields and subcatchments in the St. Joseph River Watershed as part of the St. Joseph River CEAP and Eastern Corn Belt LTAR.

Hydrometric monitoring and conservative tracer analysis will be used to evaluate antecedent conditions on surface runoff and subsurface tile drainage flow generation and quantify surface and subsurface flow contributions to water quantity and quality. Runoff and groundwater within a tile-drained watershed will be analyzed to determine soil physical property effects and management practices on water quality. A lab rill channel and soil box will quantify sediment deposition and transport under different hydrologic conditions, and develop equations for process-based erosion models. Surface topographic techniques will be assessed to quantify spatial distribution of soil erosion and sediment deposition, and morphology of the drainage network. Collect high P soils from Western Lake Erie Basin and characterize for chemical and physical properties, followed by flow-through desorption experiments. Construct a subsurface P removal structure on an agricultural tile drain, using Fe-rich P filter media. Monitor inflow and treated water for P removal. Lab studies to assess different biochars at pollutant removal. Lab and field studies will assess conservation practice impacts on water quality at plot and field scales. Continued efforts on physical-based soil erosion model, including improved channel erosion simulation for ephemeral gullies and grass waterways, water quality routines for pollutant losses, and expanded subsurface tile drainage for better winter simulations and controlled drainage management. Changes to science model have resulted in separate code branches. We will unify these to have a single WEPP version applied by user agencies. Incorporate code from graduate student and other research. Conduct simulations using TauDEM, comparing results to both observed data and simulations using TOPAZ. Assess current code bases for WEPP and WEPS, and determine if common algorithms can be shared. Evaluate data needs of WEPP, WEPS, RHEM and RUSLE2 for common databases. Refactor WEPP code and maintain existing functionality. Use web services locally for desktop WEPP and WEPS, and for web-based applications to separate science and database logic from user interfaces. Expand web service software to fully support WEPP. Develop parallel processing for watershed applications, controlled by software service layer. Use parallelization on CPU and GPU processors. Update P-TRAP software, build mobile research/demo P removal structure, and help with P removal structures across the country. Climate change is resulting in elevated temperatures, more variable rainfall occurrence, and more intense rainfall events. Current conservation practices may be less effective in the future, and other practices may be needed to keep soil and pollutant losses to lower desired levels. Modeling studies will be used to assess impacts of climate change on erosion and off-site water quality, and effectiveness of control practices. Collaborate and support ongoing and future CEAP and LTAR projects and initiatives through sharing historical data from fields and watersheds, continued monitoring of field and watershed sites, and collection of new data and samples for cross-location analyses.

Progress Report
Related to Objective 1, flow-through experiments for assessing how flow rate and contact time influence the ability of soils to adsorb and desorb P are currently underway. Around 30 soils are being evaluated for this purpose. Soils are evaluated at two different flow rates with samples collected at various frequency for analysis of solution phosphorus (P) concentration. Soil flow-through research for the purpose of producing a data set that will inform and improve P transport models is now underway, through a collaborative project with the Ohio State University, the University of Arizona, Purdue University, and the USDA-ARS Soil Drainage Research Unit, Columbus, Ohio. A graduate student conducting research at the Erosion Lab is supported by the grant funds sent to Purdue University. A new precipitation sampler has been built and tested that will be used to collect rainwater as part of the multi- location water isotope project. The sampler funnels rainwater into a series of sample bottles with check values that will collect a sample every 6 mm of rainfall. The new sampler has been tested in the laboratory to ensure in works properly, with field testing scheduled for the upcoming summer and deployment at all four locations involved with this project within the next year. Work continues on collection of soil and plant samples for analyses to assess conservation practices’ (gypsum, cover crops, and tillage) impacts on soil health and water quality. Soil samples are being processed to determine soil carbon (C) dynamics, ultimately impacting soil health and water quality. Related to project Objective 2, P removal structures were constructed and designed in cooperation with groups such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR), University of Vermont, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and various private industry and non-profits. Similarly, several educational modules were completed in an effort to produce a certification/training guide for designing P removal structures. Objective 3 efforts included continued work on updating the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) Windows desktop program. This software is being updated to work with recent changes to the WEPP science model and optionally use the same web services, based on the Cloud Services Innovation Platform, as the NRCS web interface for WEPP. Efforts continue with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and university cooperators to evaluate WEPP, both at the hillslope/field area of interest and also at the small watershed scale. In coordination with NRCS, updates to the cropping and operations databases for WEPP were made available for evaluation with the NRCS web-based WEPP interface. Web services for the WEPP watershed model are being tested with a web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) interface developed by Colorado State University. Feedback during the testing will determine changes needed for future use by NRCS. Evaluation is being done both with the WEPP science model and also the capabilities of the user interface. Source code updates for WEPP from several recent research studies are being merged to incorporate the latest reviewed changes into model releases. The model versions would address the main WEPP user groups at this time, U.S. Forest Service, NRCS and university or consultant groups.


Review Publications
Williams, M.R., Welikhe, P., Bos, J.H., King, K.W., Akland, M., Augustine, D.J., Baffaut, C., Beck, G., Bierer, A.M., Bosch, D.D., Boughton, E., Brandani, C., Brooks, E., Buda, A.R., Cavigelli, M.A., Faulkner, J., Feyereisen, G.W., Fortuna, A., Gamble, J.D., Hanrahan, B.R., Hussain, M., Kohmann, M., Kovar, J.L., Lee, B., Leytem, A.B., Liebig, M.A., Line, D., Macrae, M., Moorman, T.B., Moriasi, D.N., Nelson, N., Ortega-Pieck, A., Osmond, D., Pisani, O., Ragosta, J., Reba, M.L., Saha, A., Sanchez, J., Silveira, M., Smith, D.R., Spiegal, S.A., Swain, H., Unrine, J., Webb, P., White, K.E., Wilson, H., Witthaus, L.M. 2022. P-FLUX: A phosphorus budget dataset spanning diverse agricultural production systems in the United States and Canada. Journal of Environmental Quality. 51:451–461.
Steinman, A., Hassett, M., Oudsema, M., Penn, C.J. 2022. Reduction of phosphorus using iron slag filters in the Macatawa Watershed (Michigan). Frontiers in Environmental Science. 10. Article 863137.
Liu, P., Bindlish, R., O'Neil, P., Fang, B., Lakshmi, V., Yang, Z., Cosh, M.H., Bongiovanni, T., Holifield Collins, C.D., Starks, P.J., Prueger, J.H., Bosch, D.D., Seyfried, M.S., Williams, M.R. 2022. Thermal hydraulic disaggregation of SMAP soil moisture over continental United States. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing. 15:4072-4093.