Location: Southeast Watershed Research
Project Number: 6048-13000-026-00
Start Date: Feb 07, 2012
End Date: Feb 06, 2017
This project will provide new knowledge on the long term effects of agricultural management on water quality, hydrology, and ecosystem services of agricultural watersheds/landscapes in the Gulf-Atlantic Coastal Plain. The region is characterized by intensive row-crop agriculture with vegetable, fruit, and nut production increasing rapidly. Riparian forests occur along stream channels. Cropping practices and patterns in the region are expected to change as bioenergy crops are introduced and as climate change affects crop choices, pest pressure, and crop management. Water quantity and quality will be affected by increased water demand, expanded acreages, increased agrichemical inputs, and increased variability in weather and climate. Ecosystem services derived from agricultural landscapes, and the potential for agriculture to enhance these services, also need quantification. The research will: a) quantify processes controlling nutrient and agrichemical transport; b) develop conservation practices to minimize environmental impacts; and c) quantify the effects of watershed management on water resources and ecosystem services. Research results will be used to better represent these processes in state of the science models. Smaller scale studies will provide new information that will enhance understandings at the field and watershed levels. Watershed scale hydrology and water quality data characterizing the impacts of bioenergy crop establishment will provide direct measures of their effects when integrated into land management. Field surveys combined with modeling will be used to determine the effects of distribution of conservation practices, pest management, water withdrawals, ponds, and irrigation uses on water quantity and quality. Comparisons of urban and agricultural water quality and quantity will serve as a direct measure of an ecosystem service from agriculture. Remote sensing tools will be used to determine how the ecosystem services soil carbon and water holding capacity are related to crop production. Long term agroecosystem research will be implemented to establish a research platform and infrastructure to study techniques of sustainable intensification of Coastal Plain agriculture at multiple scales. Partnerships will be established with research and technology transfer organizations in the southeast to establish a framework to evaluate the effects of agriculture on ecosystem services. Watershed research approaches will be augmented by landscape ecology approaches to quantify effects on ecosystem services on multiple scales, including effects of land cover change and land use intensification. New technologies will be evaluated on field and watershed scales to determine potential for increasing production with current or reduced resource use. Replicated field scale experiments and farm-scale watershed experiments will be established in conjunction with USDA, university, and private research cooperators to provide a platform for long term (decade or more) research on major crops in rotation, biomass production for bioenergy and soil carbon accretion, and integrated effects of crop production on soil ecology.