Kansas Agricultural Watershed Field Laboratory

(Nathan) We’re out here at the Kansas Agricultural Watershed Field Laboratory. This is a facility that we have developed to investigate the effects of agricultural systems and agricultural practices on water quality, particularly surface runoff. Our current study we’re looking at the effects of cover crops and fertilizer timing and placement on phosphorus loss from a corn-soybean rotation. We have 18 different small watersheds, each one about 1.2 to 1.6 acres in size. And we collect all of the water than runs off of those watersheds in a flume. And that flume measures the amount of water and then we have automatic samplers that collect samples of that water which we can use to determine how much sediment is lost and how much erosion occurs. We can determine how much phosphorus is lost and we’re also looking at nitrogen loss as well. One of the issues that we have had happen here in Kansas is we have toxic algal blooms that have occurred in some of major reservoirs. Nutrient loss is a contributing factor in those algal blooms, particularly phosphorus loss. And so what we are doing here is trying to develop best management practices where producers can continue to use fertilizers, maintain their production and maintain their economic competitiveness, but at the same time reduce losses. And so we’re developing best management practices, particularly we’re looking at the possibility of using cover crops to minimize phosphorus loss when producers broadcast, surface broadcast fertilizers in the fall.

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