Profitable alternatives to improve water quality from high nutrient status farms

2005 Annual Report for LS04-159

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $288,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Federal Funds: $93,555.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $113,778.00
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Dorcas Franklin
University of Georgia, Crop and Soil Sciences

Profitable alternatives to improve water quality from high nutrient status farms



The only impact to date is the invitation to share the WATER/Fair project with the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association.  Of notable importance, but perhaps not an impact: In the late summer of 2005, Agrostar accepted our harvested pearl millet seed.  In the spring of 2005 the manager said that if at least three people delivered pearl millet he would condition it for sale (he had one producer  other than us requesting services) .  Because of our two producers Agrostar is now conditioning pearl millet for sale.  It should also be pointed out that the pearl millet was not sold to the poultry industry in 2005.  There are still several hurdles to overcome before pearl millet becomes a feed source for the poultry industry.  We are however taking small steps in that direction.


In the 2006 Cycle (April 15, 2005 to April 16, 2006), Phase II of the project  Watershed Assessment Through Ecological Research/Farmers Active in Research (WATER/FAIR Phase II), five gatherings have been held (two for researchers and extension and two with producers and one with everyone).  We consider each of these an accomplished milestone.

Gathering I: Titled, “Tuning-up by Tuning-in” researchers and extension from both Georgia and North Carolina gathered to coordinate efforts and to identify milestones. It was decided that an economic gathering and a solutions gathering was needed.  Both were scheduled and held along with a specific economic gathering between economists and producers.  Timelines (year and season) for the North Carolina and Georgia producer exchange tours were created and the Georgia tour was defined in terms of North Carolina’s interests and needs with respect to water quality and Georgia’s ability to share technology and results with respect to water quality.

Gathering II: Titled, “More Input Requested” After a summer of rain, pearl millet, crabgrass and then no rain, researchers requested a group problem-solving session with particular interest in a) when to remove cattle for maximum productivity while leaving enough residue to help contain crabgrass in case of another exceptionally wet summer and b) spacing on Pearl Millet in the Piedmont.  It was decided that the financial rewards of cattle grazing rye grain outweighed the potential benefits (financial and agronomic) of residue on the surface.  One farm removed the cattle on April 15, 2006 and the other on April 1, 2006.  An appreciable difference in surface residue is apparent between the two farms.    Pearl millet will be planted in 14-inch rows rather than 21-inch used in the 2005 agronomic year.

Gathering III: Titled, “Specific Plans for Georgia-hosted Farm Tours” In this meeting led by Ms. Julia Gaskin researchers were gathered.  it was decided to add an afternoon section of touring J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Research Center to the WATER/FAIR Farm Tour.  The research center had results from several integrated farming research systems that were not being implemented in the WATER/FAIR project.  These systems may be of interest and use to the North Carolina Producers when they decide to make improvements on their farms to improve profitability and water quality.

Gathering IV: Titled, “Economics a Participatory Action” , this producer meeting was fairly well attended.   Dr. Curt Lacy and Dr. Cesar Escalante developed a template for the producers to use in recording their management, associated expenses and incomes. Dr. Lacy discussed the template in depth with the producers and made changes which made collection of economic data workable for the producers and usable for the economists.  The Producers are currently using this form to record “costs” and “income”.  

Gathering V: Titled, “Sharing WATER/FAIR’s Progress” , this producer meeting was only moderately attended.   Georgia producers discussed who would present their results to date and the management practices which produced said results.  Once the Farm Tour stops were delineated the producers actively participated in the design and layout of the program at each site.  Poster Presentations were designed and approved, management and water quality results discussed to date for each of the farms to be visited (four farms), and each hosting producer requested that once posters were made that we would be available to go over the talk.  On one farm the producer had to be out of town and Henry Hibbs, County Extension Director presented the results along with another producer whom often works with the absent producer.  The farm tour results will be shared in the section titled “Cycle 2007 to date”.

Julia Gaskin and Henry Hibbs:  Based on requests for information from the farmers, we developed a table of management practices that needed to be performed for each of the three systems.  In November, I attended the Team Meeting and outlined the farm tour for spring 2006 and other goals for the extension portion of the grant.  Due to challenges with growing pearl millet, an informational meeting was organized for March 9,2006.  The farmers and agricultural technicians shared thier experiences with the pearl millet during the 2005 growing season.  Dr. Dewey Lee, Extension Grains Specialist and Dr. Wayne Hanna, Pearl Millet Breeder were present to answer specific questions and addressed potential changes in management practices.

Drs. Curt Lacy and Cesar Escalante have been actively participating in the development of a “cost” and “income” recording template which is farmer friendly for management practices in the Piedmont.  A template was designed,,evaluated by producers, modified, and returned to the producers for use.  Producers are currently recording pertinent economic data.  See Gather IV for related information.

Dr. Dorcas (Dory) Franklin was invited to speak at the2005 North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association Annual Meeting.  Information from WATER/FAIR 1999 to 2003 and an Overview of Phase II was presented and well received.

Abstracts have been submitted to the Soil and Water Conservation Societies’ Ag Landscapes Water Quality Meetings in Kansas City, MO and the American Society of Agronomy 2006 International Meeting in Indianapolis, MO.

Agronomic (Georgia)-
Drs. Miguel Cabrera, Dwight Fisher, and Dory Franklin:
Control farms maintained the same farm practices as in the past.   Soil samples to 120 cm were taken in the fall of 2004 and 2005 from both control and treatment farm-fields. Soil analysis has begun and results should be available in late 2006.  A graduate student Dave Butler has begun collection of digital elevations to help better delineate contributing areas for each runoff collector on ten of the farm sites.   This information will be used in a chapter of his dissertation which will focus on phosphorus inputs and losses.          

On 31 acres (two farms) pearl millet was planted and harvested followed by winter rye grain. Starting in January (2006) both farms began grazing the rye.  Cattle were remove on one farm April 1, 2006 and on April 15, 2006 on the other.  There was an obvious difference in the amount of residue left on the surface.  Quality and nutrient content was analyzed for the pearl millet.  Biomass and forage quality samples were taken from the rye.

On 20 acres (one farm) alfalfa was planted using Round-up ready alfalfa.  First cutting has been completed.  Biomass and forage quality samples were taken and are being analyzed.  Excess rainfall and subsequent loss of horse livestock due to excess biomass in pastures prevented the second family of producers from planting alfalfa in 2005. The second farm is still waiting to be planted and is scheduled for August 2006.

On 28 acres (two farms) Alicia bermudagrass variant was planted.  The producers had decided to plant the Russell variant.  However, this was not possible because as of mid to late July 2005 no Russell was available.  The producers therefor planted the variant Alicia.  Ryegrass was overseeded in late November to prevent erosion over the winter.  The bermudagrass did not yet cover over 25% of the field.  Two cuttings of ryegrass have been completed to date and forage biomass and quality samples were taken for each cutting.

Water Quality-
Drs. Dory Franklin and Miguel Cabrera:
Sampling of base flow storm flow and runoff has continued.  Results of water quality data is currently being input for presentations during Spring 2006 WATER/FAIR Farm Tours and meetings described above. Boats containing nutrient diffusing containers along with controls were placed in streams to determine chlorophyll a concentrations on eight of the stream segments being evaluated for water quality.

North Carolina (NC)-
During the past year, Dr. Matt Poore and Dr. Dory Franklin finished the search for sites to conduct surface water quality monitoring activities in North Carolina with the selection of 5 farms.  Details of completed installation of sampling equipment, training for sampling protocol, and initiation of sampling follow.

An initial site tour was conducted in cooperation with the extension agents involved in the project (Mr. Barry Foushee, Randolph County Extension and Mr. Jeff Carpenter, Catawba County Extension).  We visited 10 farms and discussed the goals of the project and the sampling procedures with each producer.  We also did a detailed inspection of all surface water entering and leaving each farm, and discussed positive and negative aspects of each potential site.

Our goal was to select 4 farms, 2 in each county for the study.  On both farms in each county we will conduct both base flow sampling (twice a month), and storm flow in streams will be sampled using rising-stage samplers.  In addition, on one of the farms in each county we will use small in-field runoff collectors (SIRCs) to sample pasture runoff.

A summary of the selected farms and the number and type of samples to be taken are as follows:

Randolph County

Darrell Wright
3540 Wright Farm Ln
Franklinville, NC 27248-8669
Poultry and beef cattle farm, with poultry litter fertilization
3 Base Flow
3 Storm Flow

Roy Chriscoe
4262 Fork Creek Mill Rd.
Seagrove, NC 27341
Swine farm, with lagoon application to forage crops
8 Base Flow
9 Storm Flow

Charles Deaton
7530 Erect Rd
Seagrove, NC 27341
Poultry and beef cattle farm, with poultry litter fertilization
4 Base Flow
9 Storm Flow
3 Runoff Collectors

Carl Rector
6544 St. Peters Church Rd
Conover, NC 28613
Beef cattle farm with conventional fertilization
5 Base Flow
11 Storm Flow
3 Runoff Collectors

Al King
4814 Whitener Rd
Hickory, NC 28602
Beef cattle farm with conventional fertilization
4 Base Flow
4 Storm Flow

During the summer of 2005 we visited each farm, and came up with a final plan for the sampling project.  Installation of samplers was initiated during the fall 2005, and was completed February 2006.  We visited each site and worked with the extension agents who will be coordinating sample collection in April 2006 to finalize record keeping and sampling protocols, and sampling began in Mid-April.  Analysis of samples taken so far is in progress, and we will start seeing data by mid-summer 2006.  Sampling will continue at these sites until at least April 2008.

Cycle 2007 to date-
NC producers, extension leaders, and other agricultural leaders arrived as planned in late May and attended planned events along with Georgia producers, extension and agricultural leaders. Event stops include:  Event details will be included in the 2006 Annual report.  will be attended by North Carolina as well as Georgia farmers and agricultural professionals. North Carolina Producers were excited about WATER/FAIR results to date and asked if we would being willing to host another farm tour in the near future.


Larry Risse

Curt Lacy
Extension Economist
Univ. of Georgia
Rural Development Center
P O Box 1209
Tifton, GA 31793
Office Phone: 2293863512
Ceasar Escalante
Farm Finance and Production Economist
Univ. of Georgia
Dept. of Agricultural and Applied Economics
312 Conner Hall
Athens, GA 30602
Office Phone: 7065420740
Matthew Poore
Extension Ruminant Nutritionist
North Carolina State Univ
Dept. of Animal Science
Campus Box 7621
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9195157798
Julia Gaskin
Land Application Specialist
Univ. of Georgia
Bio & Ag Engineering
Driftmeir Engineering Bldg
Athens, GA 30602
Office Phone: 7065421401
Dwight Fisher
Rangeland Scientist
USDA-ARS J. Phil Campbell, Sr. NRCC
1420 Experiments Station Road
Watkinsville, GA 30677
Office Phone: 70676956312
Miguel Cabrera
Univ. of Georgia
Dept. of Crop & Soil Sciences
3111 Miller Plant Sciences Bldg
AThens, GA 30602
Office Phone: 7065421242
Henry Hibbs

Sr. Public Service Associate
Univ. of Georgia Cooperative Extension
Oconee County
Watkinsville, GA 30677
Office Phone: 7067693946