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3. Edge-of-Field Monitoring


(bouncy guitar music) – Hi I’m Aaron Heilers and
I’m the project manager for the Blanchard River
Demonstration Farms. The Demonstration Farms
is a five-year initiative showcasing and demonstrating
conservation practices that will help
improve agriculture’s impact on downstream
water quality. How do we determine which practices will
have the biggest impact on reducing nutrient loss from agriculture? We do so with an edge-of-field
monitoring network. This network is managed
by Dr. Kevin King and his staff with
the USDA-Agricultural
Research Service. The network has 20 sites
around Ohio with a majority of them in the western
Lake Erie basin. The Kurt and Stateler
Demonstration Farms have edge-of-field monitoring
equipment on their fields. The 20 sites are what are
called paired field sites or two fields in close
proximity to one another. The monitoring equipment
measures the surface and subsurface drainage
from each field. Researchers are measuring
for ammonium nitrate and phosphorus losses
from each point. The sampling equipment
is able to take samples 365 days a year. It pulls a water sample
through the tubing connected to the drainage tile or the
surface flume based on flow, which is usually every 15
minutes during a rain event and every six hours
during a non-rain event. The water sample is stored
in the white box at each site and is collected every
week by technicians and analyzed in their lab. Each field is treated exactly
the same for the baseline collection phase or
one cropping cycle. Which is typically
one year of corn and one year of soybeans. After that two year
period of the same crop, same nutrient applications,
same overall management and same weather patterns,
one of the field’s management practices
is switched. This change could be
a variety of things, including in field practices,
like how and when nutrients are applied, cover crop
seeding’s and crop rotation. Edge-of-field practices like
drainage water management and phosphorus
removal structures and in stream practices
like two stage ditches. The fields are then managed
for another crop cycle. This comparison of treatments
allows researchers to make better recommendations to
farmers about which practices are truly going to
reduce nutrient losses
from their fields. As this crucial edge-of-field
data continues to be compiled, Dr. King and the research
community have developed three recommendations that will help
minimize loss of nutrients. They are, first ensure
that each farm follows the four r’s of
nutrient management. The four r’s are applying
nutrients from the right source, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. Second, develop a water
management plan for each field. And third, reduce soil erosion. In the next chapter, we will
discuss what some of these practices are and how much
nutrients can be reduced by implementing these practices. (bouncy guitar music)

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