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ARS Home » Plains Area » Temple, Texas » Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #443178

Research Project: FY 2022 Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) - Benchmark Watershed Assessment Studies (on croplands) Temple

Location: Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Project Number: 3098-13610-009-094-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Sep 2, 2022
End Date: Sep 1, 2027

The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) is a multi-agency effort led by USDA NRCS and -ARS to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices and programs that includes development of science-based approaches to manage agricultural landscapes for environmental quality. Research needs include prioritizing and combining conservation practice effects on soil erosion that leads to nutrient loss, reservoir sedimentation, and aquifer decline; determining how conservation practices affect soil health and water use; and synthesizing how conservation practices interact at landscape levels. This agreement describes a partnership between the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to achieve conservation goals of mutual benefit, as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). Through this agreement, the NRCS proposes to contribute funding to enhance and accelerate the completion of research and assessment, and associated products and outcomes, contained within the ARS National Program 211 Water Availability and Watershed Management 2021-2025 Action Plan, which remains in force through January 2025, including objectives of particular interest to NRCS to support conservation activities. The overall goals of the CEAP are to: • Estimate conservation effects and benefits at regional and national scales; and • Develop scientific understanding of conservation practice effects at watershed scales. The goals of the CEAP Watershed Assessment Studies Components are: • Quantify the measurable effects of conservation practices at the watershed scale. • Enhance understanding of conservation effects in the biophysical setting of a watershed. • Inform local watershed conservation strategies. ARS will: • Identify key contributors to soil erosion when conservation practices are used in critical areas, as opposed to whole field implementation, and identify how conservation practices impact water balance including contaminant transport to groundwater, effects on soil properties, including soil water storage or reduced water usage by plants. • Determine how practices can be used to reduce dependence on synthetic inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, and how improved manure management can reduce nutrient discharge and microbial contamination; and • Collect data to improve soil erosion models under conservation practices, nutrient management scenarios, and manured cropping systems, and evaluate how stacked conservation practices alter soil and water processes compared to single practices.

Adoption of precision conservation at Riesel occurred in crop year 22 with the removal of unprofitable cropland from production in Y8 and Y13 and reduced inputs to crop production in marginal zones in SW17 and W13. Crop production, economic performance, and environmental outcomes (i.e., water quality) will be measured in these fields (exception is SW17 with no weir for water quality collection) to evaluate precision conservation compared to fields with business as usual or more generic conservation cropping systems practices. FY23 will represent the second full year of data collection on these practices. Additionally, we will run a VERIS EC mapping system over these fields as well as pull samples with a VERIS P4000 soil sampler from zones based on soils maps, yield maps, and EC mapping. We are also participating in the development of an app to collect cropping system attribute data as well as software to support integration of precision agriculture data collected from multiple vendors.