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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #441883

Research Project: Managing Water Resources to Foster the Sustainable Intensification of Agroecosystems in the Northeastern U.S.

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-13000-015-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 28, 2022
End Date: Mar 27, 2027

Objective 1. Describe and quantify sources and transport processes that transfer agriculturally derived environmental contaminants to receiving waters. Objective 2. Assess the effectiveness of newly developed and existing conservation practices that reduce the risk of agricultural contaminant losses that negatively affect water quality. Subobjective 2.1. Identify, develop, and evaluate manure, fertilizer, tillage, irrigation, drainage, and nutrient management practices that improve production use efficiency and minimize off-site transfers. Subobjective 2.2. Develop new technologies and management practices that improve and protect soil health. Sub-Objective 2.3. Modernizing soil testing to optimize agricultural and environmental priorities and achieve precision management. Objective 3: Develop management strategies and practices that conserve water resources and enhance agroecosystem services of wetlands cultivated for cranberry production. Subobjective 3.1. Characterize soil carbon dynamics and temporal and spatial patterns of nutrient discharge from cranberry farms. Subobjective 3.2. Develop new technologies and management practices that enhance water use efficiency and improve water quality on cranberry farms. Objective 4 . In support of LTAR network goals, design sustainable agricultural systems that balance production, environmental, and rural prosperity objectives under changing agricultural and climatic conditions in the northeastern U.S.

Research spans 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), and Appalachian Ridge and Valley (Mahantango Creek watershed, PA and Spruce Creek watershed, PA). The scope of our research encompasses entire agroecosystems and the supporting industrial complex. The water quality emphasis is primarily on controlling nutrient (N and P) loss to the environment. Increasingly, our research addresses carbon as related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. In the Upper Chesapeake Bay, we focus primarily on dairy production, the most common production system in the watershed. Similarly, our Congressionally mandated work on cranberry production (Objective 3) focuses on cranberry production enterprises and related externalities in the Buzzard Bay watershed. The private enterprise is at the center of our work because the individual producer is a key decision maker. Research activities represent targets of opportunity as identified by scientists and/or stakeholders or are in response to external funding opportunities that have been prioritized by funding agencies and that leverage internal resources and university partnerships. As a member of the LTAR network, outcomes have relevance to other agroecosystems and outcomes from research by other members of the network have relevance to our region. Linkages between our research activities and those of the other 19 LTAR research programs are too numerous to describe in detail, but collectively, outcomes from research across the network have greater potential for producing significant new, actionable knowledge for the dairy and cranberry industries than from our work alone. 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 core sites and a research infrastructure that enables measurement and chemical sampling of surface runoff, subsurface flow, and stream flow. We combine field observations with laboratory experiments that allow for greater control over indirect variables. Our basic research (Objective 1) involves observational and experimental studies, using parametric and nonparametric statistics as well as numerical models to quantify temporal and spatial dynamics or determine differences between management/land use, landscape units, and watershed components. Our applied research (Objectives 2-4) includes experimental studies, remote sensing, and modeling.