ANKENY, Iowa — Two years of concentrated research by dozens of university and USDA scientists shows that a management practice known as edge-of-field monitoring (EOFM) could hold the key to reducing the presence of agricultural runoff in water supplies. The findings are presented in a special issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (http://www.jswconline.org/content/73/1.toc), published by the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS).
“EOFM provides the resolution necessary to target, design and evaluate in-field conservation practices for reducing nonpoint source pollution from agriculture,” according to an article (www.jswconline.org/content/73/1/1.full.pdf+html) introducing the collection of research papers published in the Journal.
Mike Daniels, professor of Extension Water Quality at the University of Arkansas, who co-authored the introductory article for SWCS, says, “EOFM has been used for years mainly for research about water quality management and irrigation usage. But we are learning now that on-farm water monitoring is an excellent tool for assessing the environmental impact of farming practices, and for evaluating the effectiveness of conservation and stewardship techniques.” Previously, Daniels explains, regulators, researchers and growers have had to rely on data from entire drainage basins and monitoring for the presence of agricultural inputs in rivers and lakes to develop water protection strategies.
“Large-scale estimates of nutrient loading, along with water monitoring results from drainage systems as large as hundreds of square miles have not been very useful in identifying specific causes, sources and solutions to agricultural nonpoint source pollution,” Daniels says. “EOFM provides real-time information to help close that disconnect. For example, by measuring nutrient content in the runoff from a specific portion of his or her farm, a grower can determine whether changes in fertilizer placement, application timing and tillage systems are successful in reducing nutrient runoff.”
“Wider use of edge-of-field monitoring is part of a more holistic and tailored approach to water resource protection,” says Clare Lindahl, CEO of SWCS. “Reducing the movement of crop nutrients into water supplies is a complex issue influenced by environmental factors that vary widely from location to location. This requires local solutions, and EOFM is a key component in developing updated recommendations for farmers.”
“At the same time,” Lindahl adds, “we recognize that practices like EOFM represent just a part of how to address a very large challenge. SWCS will continue to encourage and facilitate the scientific collaboration, conversation and exchange of ideas necessary for sustained progress in ag resource conservation.”
–Soil and Water Conservation Society
For more articles concerning conservation issues, click here.