Project Number: BQY12
Project Chiefs: Todd D. Stuntebeck
Project Topics:Agricultural Nonpoint Runoff
Cooperators: UW-Discovery Farms, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Sand County Foundation
Period of Project: 2001-ongoing
All monitoring stations are designed to continuously measure runoff volume and to collect discrete water samples during storm-runoff periods, including snowmelt. The discrete samples collected are combined into a single sample such that the sample represents the average concentration over the duration of the storm.
Agriculture has historically been cited as one of the primary causes of water-resource degradation, especially in Wisconsin. Nonetheless, agriculture plays a critical role in the way that we live, the food we eat, and the economics that drive our society. Wisconsin producers are facing difficult challenges to remain economically viable: new farm bills are threatening to take away subsidies, increasing fuel and fertilizer costs are limiting profitability, and legislation has been proposed that may significantly change the ways that producers have historically operated. In addition, producers are receiving increased pressure to be “environmentally friendly”: well contaminations, manure spills, and numerous recent fish kills have all been linked to agriculture. Agricultural production and the associated potential environmental hazards are being brought under public scrutiny perhaps more now than ever before.
The USGS is cooperating with the Discovery Farms program to collect data to help understand agriculture’s impact on the environment and work with producers to evaluate ways to minimize their impact, while at the same time assuring that the producers stay economically viable.
Samples from a rainfall-runoff event.
Monitoring stations are installed throughout Wisconsin on selected Discovery Farms which represent diverse land characteristics, production schemes, and management styles. Monitoring stations are installed at sites in small, headwater streams, edges of fields, and in subsurface tiles. All monitoring stations are designed to continuously measure runoff volume and to collect discrete water samples during storm-runoff periods, including snowmelt. The discrete samples collected are combined into a single sample such that the sample represents the average concentration over the duration of the storm. These composite samples are analyzed for total phosphorus, dissolved reactive phosphorus, suspended sediment, total dissolved solids, ammonium- N, nitrate + nitrite - N, Kjeldahl - N, and chloride. Storm loads are computed based on the discharge information and constituent concentrations.
One of the primary experimental approaches of the project is to conduct multiple paired-watershed analyses on each farm to determine the impacts of the current management practices. If the current production system is deemed to need modification, changes will be made to see if modification of these practices significantly reduces constituent yields. On-farm information including cropping rotations, residue checks, manure management, and financial records are collected by the Discovery Farms staff to help understand the production system and the impacts of management changes. Studies are expected to last between five and seven years on each farm.
In addition to the paired-watershed design, several other investigations will be conducted on various aspects of the farms. These studies may include, but not be limited to: comparing constituent yields from each farm to those in other regions of Wisconsin, comparing constituent yields from one type of management system to that of a different management system, comparisons of measured sediment losses versus loss estimates from various predictive indices, development, calibration, and verification of a phosphorus-loss risk index, and development, calibration, and verification of a hydrologic and chemical model (surface and ground water).
1. Stuntebeck, Todd D.; Komiskey, Matthew J.; Owens, David W.; Hall, David W., 2008, Methods of Data Collection, Sample Processing, and Data Analysis for Edge-of-Field, Streamgaging, Subsurface-Tile, and Meteorological Stations at Discovery Farms and Pioneer Farm in Wisconsin, 2001-7: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1015, 60 p.
2. Stuntebeck, Todd D.; Komiskey, Matthew J.; Peppler, Marie C.; Owens, David W.; Frame, Dennis R.; Precipitation-Runoff Relations and Water-Quality Characteristics at Edge-of-Field Stations, Discovery Farms and Pioneer Farm, Wisconsin, 2003–8: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigation Report, publication pending, 2010.
3. M.J. Komiskey, T.D. Stuntebeck, D.R. Frame, and F.W. Madison, Nutrients and sediment in frozen-ground runoff from no-till fields receiving liquid-dairy and solid-beef manures, Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, publication pending, 2011.