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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGING AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY IN FIELDS AND WATERSHEDS: NEW PRACTICES AND TECHNOLOGIES Title: Combining precision conservation technologies into a flexible framework to facilitate agricultural watershed planning

Authors
item Tomer, Mark
item Porter, Sarah
item James, David
item Boomer, Kathleen -
item Kostel, Jill -
item Mclellan, Eileen -

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: May 16, 2013
Publication Date: September 16, 2013
Citation: Tomer, M.D., Porter, S.A., James, D.E., Boomer, K.M., Kostel, J.A., Mclellan, E. 2013. Combining precision conservation technologies into a flexible framework to facilitate agricultural watershed planning. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 68(5):113A-120A.

Interpretive Summary: It is possible to map locations in watersheds where various conservation practices should most effectively improve water quality. But methods to precisely place different conservation practices have not been brought into a common framework for watershed planning. This paper proposes and demonstrates a framework to apply precision conservation planning techniques in small (HUC-12) watersheds, emphasizing practices suited to Midwestern agriculture and new sources of data (i.e., LiDAR). The framework is conceptually based on a conservation 'pyramid', with practices that build soil health forming the base, practices that control water movement within fields and below fields forming second and third tiers, and riparian management practices forming the apex. Practices are classified according to landscape placement (i.e., in-field, below-field, or riparian zone) and dominant flow pathway being addressed (surface runoff or subsurface drainage). Matrices are included to: 1) prioritize fields for runoff control practices where runoff can readily enter surface water, and 2) help design riparian buffers according to which flow pathways (surface and/or subsurface) can be intercepted, as indicated by terrain analysis. Application provides many combinations of practices that can be evaluated through simulation models and stakeholder feedback. This builds flexibility into the framework, as does the possibility to include new or alternative practices for which placement criteria might be proposed. The practices included and specific methods to locate different practices can be varied according to local knowledge, preferences, and resources. This framework may facilitate new approaches to leverage new data sources and apply precision conservation technologies in watershed planning. The concept proposed in this paper will be of interest to agricultural conservationists, watershed planners, and policy makers who seek approaches to engage agricultural communities in conservation planning and implementation efforts that could meet ambitious water quality goals.

Technical Abstract: It is possible to map locations in watersheds where various conservation practices should most effectively improve water quality. But methods to precisely place different conservation practices have not been brought into a common framework for watershed planning. This paper proposes and demonstrates a framework to apply precision conservation planning techniques in small (HUC-12) watersheds, emphasizing practices suited to Midwestern agriculture and new sources of data (i.e., LiDAR). The framework is conceptually based on a conservation 'pyramid', with practices that build soil health forming the base, practices that control water movement within fields and below fields forming second and third tiers, and riparian management practices forming the apex. Practices are classified according to landscape placement (i.e., in-field, below-field, or riparian zone) and dominant flow pathway being addressed (surface runoff or subsurface drainage). Matrices are included to: 1) prioritize fields for runoff control practices where runoff can readily enter surface water, and 2) help design riparian buffers according to which flow pathways (surface and/or subsurface) can be intercepted, as indicated by terrain analysis. Application provides many combinations of practices that can be evaluated through simulation models and stakeholder feedback. This builds flexibility into the framework, as does the possibility to include new or alternative practices for which placement criteria might be proposed. The practices included and specific methods to locate different practices can be varied according to local knowledge, preferences, and resources. This framework may facilitate new approaches to leverage new data sources and apply precision conservation technologies in watershed planning.

Last Modified: 10/30/2014
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