Water Quality: A Report of Progress
Published Sep 1997
Management Systems Evaluation Areas (MSEA) Projects and Agricultural Systems for Environmental Quality (ASEQ) Projects
There is increasing public concern about the quality of our
environment and our land, air, and water resources. The
underlying concern is the need to develop a sustainable
agricultural production system that is globally competitive with
the quality of our basic environmental resources. These concerns
are being addressed by refocusing USDA and State Cooperator
programs. Leadership for the programs is provided by the
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Cooperative State
Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES).
The Management Systems Evaluation Areas (MSEA) projects were established in 1990 in the Midwest. They focused on groundwater and the impact of agriculture upon the water quality. Three new systems projects funded in 1995 are called Agricultural Systems for Environmental Quality (ASEQ). Some of the MSEA projects are changing focus to the broader objectives of the ASEQ projects. Primary goals are: improve and expand scientific knowledge of agricultural production and the quality and quantity of natural resources, and develop and transfer to users new and improved technologies that are economically efficient and environmentally sound.
The MSEA/ASEQ Water Quality program is producing results that are changing the management of soils and water to sustain profitability and enhance the environment. These programs currently involve 150 research and educational specialists. Since 1990, they have provided over 700 publications, directly impacted 50,000 people, and their efforts have reached over 1 million people through press releases, technical reports, and radio and television coverage. Two major conferences have highlighted the MSEA/ASEQ accomplishments, and two independent symposiums were held in 1997.
Some recent accomplishments include:
In North Carolina, a 7-acre wetland is effectively removing nitrates from the runoff and drainage of a 950-acre watershed during the warm season; a SiteSpecific Farming workshop was held at Greensboro, North Carolina, and attracted some 200 participants and several industrial and educational displays have been developed for the ASEQ project.
In Indiana, the Indian Creek and the Little Pine Creek ASEQ watersheds, located near West Lafayette, are providing data from 22 stations to test and calibrate models for water quality management.
Ohio's Lake Erie ASEQ project, along with other State and Federal projects, is making excellent progress in reducing phosphorus loading in two major watersheds that discharge into Lake Erie. Watershed phosphorus budgets indicate that the net annual accumulation of phosphorus in the Maumee watershed has dropped from 23,000 metric tons to 2,600 metric tons. Farmers are no longer applying "buildup" levels of phosphorus to their fields-- a major cultural change.
Nebraska's MSEA indicates that irrigated corn can be produced profitably with less water and nitrogen than most farmers apply.
Ohio's MSEA project has identified agricultural systems components that maintain profitability and minimize groundwater impact of farming on the bottomlands of the Scioto Valley.
The Minnesota MSEA reports that recharge, influenced by small differences in landscape elevation, can have a large impact on movement of agrichemicals to groundwater; and that such differences need to be considered in management of sandy landscapes. This provides a direct linkage to precision farming, and to more focused management of croplands in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
The Mississippi Delta ASEQ reports that the use of weed sensor technology has reduced the amount of herbicide needed for weed control in cotton and soybeans; lake water has been dramatically improved.