Profitable alternatives to improve water quality from high nutrient status farms

2006 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


In the 2007 Cycle (April 15, 2005 to April 16, 2007), we carried out Phase II of the project Watershed Assessment Through Ecological Research/Farmers Active in Research (WATER/FAIR Phase II).

Julia Gaskin, Drs. Matt Poore and Dory Franklin
Pearl Millet Production Meeting – On March 9, 2006 a farmer meeting was held with pearl millet experts form the University of Georgia – Dr. Dewey Lee and the Agricultural Research Service – Dr. Jeff Wilson. After introductions, the group went around the table and discussed problems encountered during the last growing season. Planting depth, weed control, row width, and other production practices were discussed and an approach agreed upon for the 2006 season.

North Carolina Exchange Farm Tour – On May 30 and 31, 2006, farmers and extension personnel form North Carolina came to Georgia as part of the outreach for this project. On May 30th, the group visited the J. Phil Campbell, Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center. After a welcome by the Center’s Research Leader, Dr. Wayne Reeves, the group visited various research projects in the field related to cropping alternatives and water quality including, water quality responses to grazing and poultry litter use, how crop production affects hydrology, effects of alternate shade and water sources on water quality, winter feeding practices to reduce erosion, and the potential for mixed cropping and grazing systems. The group had a dinner with local farmers and listened to a talk on how TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads) can and do affect agricultural production. This presentation stimulated a discussion of best management practices and their effectiveness in both Georgia and North Carolina. On day two of the tour the group visited several farms participating in the SARE grant. Dr. Franklin gave an overview of the WATER/FAIR Project. The Oconee County extension agent, Mr. Henry Hibbs, gave an overview of the bermudagrass/rye system being used on the Rosen Farm and its effect on water quality. The group next looked at the alfalfa work conducted on the Hale Farm and discussed the potential to use alfalfa as a high value hay for horses and small ruminants. At the Risse Farm, the group had a boxed lunch and looked at a pearl millet field drilled in after grazing of a winter rye. Some of the problems seen with weed competition were discussed as well as winter grazing management. The last stop was the House Farm where another pearl millet field was visited. Dr. Jeff Wilson gave a presentation on pearl millet and fielded questions. The group discussion centered on pearl millet establishment and the challenges of getting a good stand with drilling into a winter cover in the fine-textured soils of the Piedmont. Numerous pictures and some video were taken of the two-day tour activities, which are being developed into a powerpoint presentation.

Drs. Curt Lacy and Cesar Escalante:
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 set of guidelines on collecting production and financial information was prepared and disseminated to participating farmers on April 26, 2006. These guidelines, accompanied by a detailed tabular form for data collection, were designed to identify important variables and information that need to be collected to help project proponents analyze the economic and financial feasibility of the proposed management practices. A meeting conducted by Drs. Curt Lacy and Dorcas Franklin on March 30, 2006 held at the Oconee County Extension office in Watkinsville was attended by 12 of the 16 farms participating in the study. This provided a good venue for discussions with farmers on data recording issues.
As these management practices are implemented, interviews with the participating farmers will be conducted by an academic professional, who will be hired on an hourly basis. These interviews are designed to validate the production and financial information recorded by the farmers and to clarify other issues related to the implementation of the proposed management practices. These farmer interviews will commence on May 1, 2007 and could be completed within six months.

Dr. Dorcas (Dory) Franklin and Dave Butler presented interim results at the American Society of Agronomy 2006 International Meeting in Indianapolis, MO, Nov. 2007. Dr. Franklin’s poster presented water quality trends in the Greenbrier and Rose Creeks in a special poster session. Nitrate and dissolved reactive phosphorus concentrations declined from 1998 to 2003. In addition, initial 2004 analysis indicated that the transition to new practices may have temporally increased these nutrient concentrations in base flow because there was an spike in concentrations late in 2004. Dave Butler, a doctoral candidate, presented trends in P export from runoff on field with from the grazing land systems evaluated 1998 to 2003 (phase I).

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 2005 and 2006 from both control and treatment farm-fields. Soil analysis is being conducted. Dave Butler has continued to collect digital elevation coordinates with Beth Barton, USDA-ARS technician. A little more than 40% of the x, y, z, coordinates have been collected from on-farm sites. This information will be used to delineate contributing areas for each runoff collector on ten of the farm sites, to evaluate the current Georgia P-index, and in a chapter of his dissertation which will focus on phosphorus inputs and losses.

On 31 acres (two farms) pearl millet was planted followed by winter rye grain. It was a disappointing year for pearl millet production: Pearl millet was up and growing but germination was only 67% and due to the very cool spring we had to plant twice. Late in the summer we had a very hopeful crop when the crabgrass weeds were attacked by army worms, later the army worms returned and consumed the pearl millet. The pearl millet in the other field was not attacked and yields were double that of the first year. However, the seed has not yet been purchased from the grain vendor.
On 20 acres (one farm) alfalfa has done well. The producer is recording increases in milk production. This cycle the producer was able to get six cuttings. We were unable to plant the second field to Round-up ready alfalfa.

On 28 acres (two farms) Alicia bermudagrass variant was planted and two to three cuttings were made on the fields.

Water Quality-
Drs. Dory Franklin and Miguel Cabrera:
Sampling of base flow storm flow and runoff has continued. The laboratory has run 1000 water samples for Total N, Total P, PO4-P, NH4, and NO3. Results of water quality data were presented during Spring 2006 WATER/FAIR Farm Tours and meetings described above. Methods to measure indicator periphyton and diatoms were examined, 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. Results comparing the two methods was submitted to the Journal of Environmental Quality.

North Carolina
Dr. Matt Poore:
Farms were selected for monitoring in Fall of 2005, and installation of storm-flow samplers and SIRCS was completed in early 2006. Sample collection began mid-April and is continuing. To date over 700 water samples have been collected from the 5 farms. We currently are processing samples for analysis (filtration) and our first batch (300 samples) will be analyzed for nutrients this spring.

We have had several problems with samplers and collectors so far this year. Several samplers have washed out in storms and have been replaced. The runoff collectors have been overwhelmed by the amount of flow entering them in several storms, and those problems have not been completely solved. Site visits will be conducted in spring by the PIs to try to resolve these issues.

An outbreak of a poultry disease in Randolph county led to a quarantine on the Charles Deaton farm which interrupted sampling for 2 months during the fall, but sampling there was resumed in January. The farm owned by Roy Chriscoe in Randolph county was sold to Purvis Inc. (an integrated swine company) and was converted from hay production to grazing. These changes have been noted, but it is still unclear how long the new owners will allow us to continue monitoring surfact water quality.

Another challenge with the project has been engaging the producers in Randolph county. The producers in Catawba county have been very active and interested in the project while in Randolph county the producers have been less active and less interested. We are planning meetings with each producer this year to try to keep them interested.

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

Purvis Farms (formerly owned by Roy Chriscoe)
4262 Fork Creek Mill Rd.
Seagrove, NC 27341
Swine farm, with lagoon effluent application to pasture
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

Catawba County

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

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

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. The North Carolina Exchange Farm Tour was a great success and evaluations of the WATER/FAIR portion of the tour were exceptional.


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