Producers Assessment of Sustainable Land Management Practices to Protect Water Quality

Final Report for LS97-088

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1997: $228,864.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Federal Funds: $105,763.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $149,975.00
ACE Funds: $30,000.00
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Jill L. Steiner
USDA-ARS, Campbell Center
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Project Information

Abstract:

Our team of agricultural producers, educators, researchers, and students partnered to determine sustainable management systems and the means to implement them, addressing four objectives:

Objective 1: Assess system-wide spatial and temporal distribution of N and P in ground and surface waters in the Rose and Greenbrier Creek watersheds, as related to land management practices. Stream collectors and runoff collectors were installed at farm sites and in strategic locations on 20 fields on 15 farms within the watersheds. We collected edge of field and upstream/downstream data. Producers selected fields and management practices to be addressed on their farms. The design of the runoff collectors was modified to improve quantitative sampling on steeper slopes, including: reinforcement to maintain a level base, addition of a fluted bar above the splitters to ensure sheet flow, leveling devices, and accessible in-ground water containers. Calibration indicated the collectors captured 9.8-11.6% of flow in the 10% container across a range of slopes and flow rates. The 1% container captured 1.5-2.5% across the same range of conditions. Scientists in Mississippi have begun installation of these runoff collectors to study nutrient movement under management systems which utilize animal manures. Bimonthly stream sampling started in December, 1998 and storm events were sampled, starting in May, 1998. We have had relatively few runoff events since the sampling equipment was in place, due to the low rainfall since May, 1998 and recent runoff samples are being analyzed. Collectors will be maintained during the next year and storm sampling and bimonthly stream sampling will continue. Digital elevation models (DEMs, 30 m resolution) were imported, rectified, and joined and shaded reliefs created. In addition, a global positioning system (GPS) was used to gather positional data on of research plots with known contributing areas (2 m resolution). Contributing areas were identified using computer techniques within +/- 0 .10 hectare of the known contributing areas. This technique for identifying contributing area can be used in conjunction with the small in-field runoff collectors to better quantify runoff and nutrients therein.

Objective 2: Compare volunteer water quality data collection to technician data collection, and test kit measurement of N and P concentrations to laboratory analysis of the same samples. Test kits were calibrated in the laboratory and field. Because of limited runoff data, comparisons of kit vs. laboratory data and volunteer vs. technician data are still underway. Data are being analyzed to determine if a relationship can be identified in the Rose and Greenbrier Creeks between turbidity and total suspended sediments.

Objective 3: Evaluate incentives needed to encourage producer adoption of environmentally and economically sustainable management practices. A pre-survey about land use/land management impacts on water quality was administered to all project participants (farmers, researchers, educators, students). Pre-survey’s were coded so that changes in pre-and post-test responses for an individual can be statistically analyzed as paired data.

Objective 4: Increase awareness among agricultural producers, youth, and the community of nutrient movement through the environment and of potential impacts on water quality. A workbook was developed about nutrient cycling within Southern Piedmont watersheds, particularly as related to agriculture. Sampling protocols and test kit procedures were also described. Farmers cooperators have copies of the workbooks. Training was offered and workbooks distributed to about 75 farmers at Fort Valley State University to the Small and Beginning Farmer Conference. Additionally, extension agents in Southern Piedmont counties of Georgia have copies of the workbook. Glenwood Hill, Fort Valley State University, and Richard Lowrance, USDA-ARS, Tifton, GA, have agreed to review the workbook to identify changes that will be needed in preparing a workbook for the Coastal Plain region

Considerable educational activity has been conducted within the watersheds by Oconee County High School FFA, 4-H, and other programs. The FFA established an Adopt-a-Stream project in the Greenbrier Creek watershed and the Science Club has an Adopt-a-Stream project in another watershed. Mr. Christopher Triquet, a French university student, came in the summer of 1999 to gain experience in working on a watershed scale water quality project

Henry Hibbs, County Agent, shared the project with other county agents as a model for water quality education and as an initiative for other agents to get their county involved in creating good water quality. The project was also presented by Dory Franklin to the Cooperative Extension Service’s 1999 Winter School. Team members provided training at the Georgia Adopt-a-Stream Annual Conference about impacts of agriculture on water quality.

Dr. Mark Risse initiated work with the Farm-A-SST program and the participating farmers. Participating farmers will be interviewed and taken through the Farm-A-SST program and the results compared to the difference between water entering and exiting their farm.

The Southern Region SARE office has been supportive in the area of outreach. Our project was featured in Common Ground and used photographs from our first training meeting were included in a display for the Agricultural Showcase and a SARE Research and Education Grant brochure. Additionally, good networking opportunities with other Southern Region SARE projects have been facilitated. In 1999, two researchers and a producer described our project to the SARE Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Action Plan Leadership Training Meeting in November. Researchers and producers from the team, along with community natural resource management professionals hosted Study Tour groups from Senegal and Ethiopia in 1999, to share information about our approaches to participatory watershed research.

Project Objectives:

Our team consists of agricultural producers, educators, researchers, and students who partnered to improve our understanding of how agricultural practices influence water quality under a variety of real world circumstances so that we could determine sustainable management systems and the means to implement them. To do this, we addressed four specific objectives:

1. Assess spatial and temporal distribution of N and P in ground and surface waters in the Rose and Greenbrier Creek watersheds, as related to land management practices;

2. Compare volunteer water quality data collection to technician data collection, and test kit measurement of N and P concentrations to laboratory analysis of the same samples;

3. Evaluate incentives needed to encourage producer adoption of environmentally and economically sustainable management practices; and

4. Increase awareness among agricultural producers, youth, and the community of nutrient movement through the environment and of potential impacts on water quality.

Research

Materials and methods:
Methods and Results

Objective 1: Assess system-wide spatial and temporal distribution of N and P in ground and surface waters in the Rose and Greenbrier Creek watersheds, as related to land management practices.

We collected edge of field and upstream/downstream data from 20 fields on 15 farms within the watersheds. Each producer selected fields and management practices to be addressed on their farms. Data collection proceeded predominantly unhindered except when streams occasionally dried up. Our evaluation of water quality in the Greenbrier and Rose Creeks watershed proved to be a dynamic process. As we learned more about these watersheds and as new management practices were initiated in the watershed we found it necessary to continually approach new potential cooperators.

The original design of the runoff collectors was modified to improve quantitative sampling on steeper slopes, including: reinforcement to maintain a level base, addition of a fluted bar above the splitters to ensure sheet flow, leveling devices, and accessible in-ground water containers. Calibration indicated the collectors captured 9.8-11.6% of flow in the 10% container across a range of slopes and flow rates. The 1% container captured 1.5-2.5% across the same range of conditions (Franklin et al., 1999b). Runoff collectors installed on gauged research paddocks at Attention to conduct additional testing of the quantitative measure provided by these collectors. Few (5) runoff events occurred in 1999 and analysis of runoff samples from 2000 have not been completed. Scientists in the coastal plains of Mississippi have begun installation of these runoff collectors in efforts to better understand nutrient movement under various management systems which utilize animal manures.

Stream collectors were installed at the farm sites and in strategic locations within the watersheds. An automated weather station was installed in the Greenbrier watershed. Bimonthly stream sampling started in December, 1998 and storm events were sampled, starting in May, 1998. Stream collectors will be maintained during the year 2000 and bimonthly stream sampling will continue. In addition, storm events will continue to be sampled. There have been relatively few runoff events since the sampling equipment was in place, due to the low rainfall since May, 1998 and recent runoff samples are being analyzed.

Digital elevation models (30 m resolution) were imported, rectified, and joined and shaded reliefs created. In addition, a global positioning system (GPS) was used to gather positional data on of research plots with known contributing areas (2 m resolution). Comparative analysis of several computer techniques for identifying contributing area was undertaken. Contributing areas were identified using computer techniques within +/- 0 .10 hectare of the known contributing areas. This technique for identifying contributing area may be used in conjunction with the small in-field runoff collectors to better quantify runoff and nutrients therein.

Objective 2: Compare volunteer water quality data collection to technician data collection, and test kit measurement of N and P concentrations to laboratory analysis of the same samples.

Test kits were calibrated in the laboratory and field. Most participants have continued to analyze data, however two farmers have stopped analyzing the data themselves. They remained involved in meetings to see the results. We found that it is very important to have some method of shaking the nitrate sample cells that ensures a constant standardized shaking rate. For this reason we have developed an audio musical tape with the right length of time and shaking rhythm of the nitrate reagent and water sample. We have also found that some participants need to use the low range nitrate reagent (0-0.5 mg/L; +/- 0.02 mg/L) while others must use the mid-range reagent for nitrate (0-10 mg/L; +/-0.2 mg/L). Because of limited runoff data, comparisons of kit vs. laboratory data and volunteer vs. technician data are still underway.

Comparative analysis of turbidity, both nephelometric and colorimetric, with total suspended sediments has been done with both base flow samples and event flow stream samples. Data are being analyzed to determine if a relationship can be identified in the Rose and Greenbrier Creeks between turbidity and total suspended sediments.

Objective 3: Evaluate incentives needed to encourage producer adoption of environmentally and economically sustainable management practices.

A pre-survey about land use/land management impacts on water quality was developed under the leadership of Dr. Jack Houston and Dory Franklin, and administered to all project participants (farmers, researchers, educators, students). Each new participant completes the survey prior to beginning to work with the project. The pre-survey’s have been coded so that changes in pre-and post-test responses for an individual can be statistically analyzed as paired data.

Objective 4: Increase awareness among agricultural producers, youth, and the community of nutrient movement through the environment and of potential impacts on water quality.

A workbook was developed about nutrient cycling within Southern Piedmont watersheds, particularly as related to agriculture. Sampling protocols and test kit procedures were also described. Farmers cooperators have copies of the workbooks. Training was offered and workbooks distributed to about 75 farmers at Fort Valley State University to the Small and Beginning Farmer Conference. Additionally, extension agents in Southern Piedmont counties of Georgia have copies of the workbook. Glenwood Hill, Fort Valley State University, and Richard Lowrance, USDA-ARS, Tifton, Georgia have agreed to review the Southern Piedmont workbook to identify changes that will be needed in preparing a workbook for the Coastal Plain region

Considerable educational activity has been conducted within the watersheds by Oconee County High School FFA, 4-H, and other student programs. The FFA established an Adopt-a-Stream project in the Greenbrier Creek watershed and the Science Club has an Adopt-a-Stream project in another watershed. Mr. Christopher Triquet, an exchange student from France, came in the summer of 1999 to gain experience in working on a watershed scale water quality project

Henry Hibbs, County Agent, shared the project with other county agents as a model for water quality education and as an initiative for other agents to get their county involved in creating good water quality. The project was also presented by Dory Franklin to the Cooperative Extension Service’s 1999 Winter School. Team members provided training at the Georgia Adopt-a-Stream Annual Conference about impacts of agriculture on water quality.

Dr. Mark Risse has initiated further work with the Farm-A-SST program and the participating farmers. Participating farmers will be interviewed and taken through the Farm-A-SST program and the results compared to the difference between water entering the farm and water exiting the farm.

The Southern Region SARE office has been supportive of our program in several ways in the area of outreach. Our project was featured in Common Ground and used photographs from our first training meeting were included in a display for the Agricultural Showcase and a SARE Research and Education Grant brochure. Additionally, networking opportunities with other Southern Region SARE projects have been facilitated by the SARE office. In 1998, two researchers and a producer described our project to the SARE Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Action Plan Leadership Training Meeting in November. Researchers and producers from the team, along with community natural resource management professionals hosted Study Tour groups from Senegal and Ethiopia in 1999, to share information about our approaches to participatory watershed research.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:
Publications

Franklin, D. H., M. L. Cabrera, D. M. Endale, J. L. Steiner, and W. P. Miller. 1998. Evaluation of a small in-field runoff collector for the Southern Piedmont. Agronomy Abstr. p. 342.

Franklin, D. H. (ed.) 1998. Nutrient cycles in the Southern Piedmont. A workbook for managing nutrients at the watershed scale. Univ. of Georgia Misc. Dept. Publ. No. ENG98-012. Athens, GA. 30602 (125 pp).

Franklin, D.H., M.L. Cabrera, and J.L. Steiner. 1999a. Comparison of computerized methods for watershed delineation. Agronomy Abstracts 1999, p. 340.

Franklin, D.H., M.L. Cabrera, J. Steiner, D. Endale, and W.P. Miller. 1999b. Evaluation of a small, in-field runoff collector. p. 275-278. In K.J. Hatcher (ed.), Proc., 1999 Georgia Water Resources Conference, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.