Producers Assessment of Sustainable Land Management Practices to Protect Water Quality
Our team of agricultural producers, educators, researchers, and students partnered to determine sustainable management systems and the means to implement them, addressing four objectives:
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.
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.
4.) Increase awareness among agricultural producers, youth, and the community of nutrient movement through the environment and of potential impacts on water quality.
Approach 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. 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 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.