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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Preserving Water Quality and Availability for Agriculture in the Lower Mississippi River Basin

Location: Watershed Physical Processes Research Unit

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Objective 1: Conduct hydrological system studies to measure, model and predict the impact of current and innovative farming practices and associated ground and surface water withdrawals on water availability and quality. (1.1.5, 1.2.1) 1a: Improve the quantification of the on-farm water balance. 1b: Modify existing hydrology models to improve simulations of water quantity.

Objective 2: Develop economical and environmentally sound irrigation and drainage management tools, practices, and technologies that conserve water and protect regional water resources and supplies. (1.1.2, 1.3.1, 1.3.2) 2a: Quantify water quantity and quality as a result of the implementation of conservation practices. 2b: Test the practice of incorporating existing soil moisture technology in agricultural water management to reduce irrigation water use.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
To preserve the quantity and quality of irrigation water supplies in the Lower Mississippi River Basin, it is necessary to consider the range of crops, soils, and production systems; the types of irrigation and drainage systems employed; the level of runoff water recycling employed; and the different water sources available. This project will address ways to improve the sustainability of groundwater supplies by investigating alternative irrigation methods for the crops currently produced in the region. Production system evaluations will include on-farm research with active participation by crop producers and crop advisors. Data collected from on-farm evaluations will be used to inform, enhance and validate existing hydrology models. Findings from this research are expected to reduce agricultural reliance on groundwater and improve water resources management, inform decision makers of potential impacts of conservation practices, and arm producers with tools and technologies that conserve water resources while maintaining crop yield.


3.Progress Report:
The program at the Jonesboro, Arkansas (AR) Worksite has grown over the last year. The ARS Principal Investigator (PI) continues to collaborate with local, state, and federal agencies to improve water resources management in the state and region. The bulk of the program is working at the farm and field scale which allows for collaborative relationships with several regional producers, organizations and universities, including Arkansas State University (ASU), University of Arkansas (UA), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) and Louisiana State University (LSU). The program has one federal support scientist, 4 graduate students in agriculture, biology and environmental science, one part time student and four summer technicians. A visiting graduate student from Mexico is doing research at the worksite under a foreign exchange program. The PI collaborated with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), UA and ASU on improving the monitoring activity associated with the edge-of-field monitoring for the Mississippi River Healthy Basins Initiative (MRBI). The modified monitoring activity is being implemented and the PI will work with producers at ten edge-of-field sites collecting water quantity and water quality data. Progress has been made on all project areas. Data were collected to support research on the impact of land grading through the quantification of the on-farm water balance. The quantification of the impact of reservoir/tailwater recovery systems on the on-farm water balance continued and expanded when additional sensors were purchased with a grant from Cotton Incorporated. Progress on the modeling of study field sites with the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation Version 2 (RUSLE2) was made. Data collection continued in the area of soil moisture technology at the plot scale in cotton and at the field scale in both cotton and soybean production. Three small grants have been independently obtained and worked collaboratively on larger grants. The PI is a collaborator on a large grant for research related to lower cost edge-of-field water quantity and water quality monitoring through a collaborative Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) University of Arkansas-Building the capacity for edge-of-field monitoring of conservation through field demonstration, regional coordination, training and outreach. The research project is a collaborative effort between UA, ASU, UAPB, the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, USDA-ARS and USDA-NRCS. The PI is a collaborator on a Conservation Innovation Grant that was recently funded: “Understanding the influence of tail water recovery systems upon water quality associated with row crop agriculture production”.


4.Accomplishments
1. Established a state-wide network of sites to monitor agricultural water quality and quantity. Understanding agriculture’s impact on water resources is imperative to improving management and policy associated with the production of food, fiber, feed and fuel. ARS scientist at the Jonesboro, AR, worksite worked with state partners to establish a network of edge-of-field monitoring sites in the state of Arkansas. Water resources information is collected from 12 farms at 30 fields that cover the major agricultural commodities of the state. Information collected at the sites will impact management practices as producers begin to understand the makeup of the runoff from their fields. A modification to practices may impact the amount of excess nutrients and sediment entering local and regional waterways.


Review Publications
Reba, M.L., Daniels, M., Chen, Y., Sharpley, A., Bouldin, J., Teague, T.G., Daniel, P., Henry, C.G. 2013. A statewide network for monitoring agricultural water quality and water quantity in Arkansas. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 68(2):45A-49A.

Reba, M.L., Pomeroy, J., Marks, D.G., Link, T. 2012. Estimating surface sublimation losses from snowpacks in a mountain catchment using eddy covariance and turbulent transfer calculations. Hydrological Processes. 26:3699-3711. DOI:10.1002/hyp.8372.

Reba, M.L., Marks, D.G., Winstral, A.H., Link, T.E., Kumar, M. 2011. Sensitivity of the snowcover energetics in a mountain basin to variations in climate. Hydrological Processes. 25(21):3312-3321.

Reba, M.L., Link, T.E., Marks, D.G., Pomeroy, J. 2009. An Assessment of Corrections for Eddy Covariance Measured Turbulent Fluxes Over Snow in Mountain Environments. Water Resources Research, 45, W00D38, doi:10.1029/2008WR007045.

Kumar, M., Marks, D.G., Dozier, J., Reba, M.L., Winstral, A.H. 2013. Evaluation of distributed hydrologic impacts of temperature-index and energy-based snow models. Advances in Water Resources. 56:77-89. DOI: 10.1016/j.advwatres.2013.03.006.

Marks, D.G., Winstral, A.H., Reba, M.L., Pomeroy, J., Kumar, M. 2013. An evaluation of methods for determining during-storm precipitation phase and the rain/snow transition elevation at the surface in a mountain basin. Advances in Water Resources. 55:98-110. DOI: 10.1016/j.advwatres.2012.11.012.

Flerchinger, G.N., Marks, D., Reba, M.L. Yu, Q., Seyfried, M.S. 2010. Surface fluxes and water balance of spatially varying vegetation within a small mountainous headwater catchment. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. 14:965-978.

Marks, D.G., Reba, M., Pomeroy, J., Link, T., Winstral, A.H., Flerchinger, G.N., Elder, K. 2008. Comparing simulated and measured sensible and latent heat fluxes over snow under a pine canopy to improve an energy balance snowmelt model. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 9:1506-1522.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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