The Ohio MSEA program was first established within the Scioto River alluvial aquifer to evaluate impacts of agricultural management systems on productivity, profitability, and ground-water quality. In 1994, the scope was broadened to include water table management for poorly drained soils in northern Ohio and more emphasis on knowledge-based decision aids and expert systems. The Ohio MSEA now includes watershed, field and plot research, and field-scale demonstration sites.
Research on socio-economic issues, riparian zones, downstream economic impacts of discharges from agricultural fields, and the development of watershed-scale decision aids is being conducted in the Darby Creek, Maumee River, Sandusky River, and Scioto River watersheds. Plot, field, and farm research results are used to model watershed processes and develop expert systems.
Plot and Field Research (Hoytville and Wooster)
Water table management practices are being investigated on silty clay and silt loam soils. Drainage systems allow farmers to control the water status of the soil through the use of subirrigation, controlled drainage, and conventional drainage.
At Piketon, the 650-acre VanMeter Farm overlies the highly productive sand and gravel Scioto River Buried Valley Aquifer. Aquifers like this supply public water for cities throughout the Midwest. Farming systems have been evaluated for their profitabili ty and impact on ground-water quality. Current cooperative research includes nutrient cycling and nutrient placement within these farming systems, irrigation strategies, and water table management to evaluate an innovative concept involving coupled wetla nd-agricultural ecosystems. Irrigation has been added as a management practice at this site to determine if irrigation will increase nitrate movement to the aquifer.
Demonstration Farms (Maumee River Watershed)
Demonstration farms show how construction and management of wetland/reservoirs can be profitable to farmers using water table management on highly productive lakebed soils. Agricultural runoff recharges constructed wetlands, and wetland outflow is stored in a reservoir for later use as subirrigation water supply.
Scioto River Watershed
Farmers in Pike, Ross and Union counties help evaluate alternative farming systems and water management under real world farming conditions. These field teaching laboratories help farmers learn how different agricultural management practices can be econo mically profitable.
- Analyses on water samples taken from the Buried Valley Aquifer detected no pesticides. The majority of applied pesticides remain in the top 6 inches of soil where they degrade. At times, nitrate concentrations in the aquifer exceed the drinking water stan dards, but do not persist.
- A tracer study showed that surface applications of a ridge till system reduced the amount of agrichemicals may reach the aquifer. Increased use of irrigation could elevate nitrate levels. Further research is needed to evaluate if pesticides will reach the aquifer under intense rainfall or irrigation.
- Crop rotations and banding of herbicides as part of a ridge till system reduced the pesticides needed to control weeds or insects. Reduced herbicide levels showed no increase in weed pressure among the cropping systems.
- A chisel/no-till system had the greatest return to management, while a ridge-till system had the next greatest. A continuous corn system (chisel) had the least.
- Three systems of subirrigation, drainage, and wetland/reservoir systems have been constructed to demonstrate water quality and yield benefits. EPA funds have been secured for monitoring water quality, water use, and operating costs.
- Water table management on poorly drained soils using subirrigation/drainage results in more efficient nutrient use and less residual nitrate.
- A decision support system, BESTAQUA, has been developed to assist farmers and consultants in comparing expected effects of management changes on ground and surface water quality.
A dynamic educational infrastructure has been responsible for providing MSEA information and support to agricultural producers and landowners, and other users annually. These educational efforts have increased awareness, demonstrated new and improved tec hnologies and strategies, and encouraged adoption of cropping practices to reduce non-point source impact on the region's water resources.
- More than 75 educational programs have been conducted reaching more than 10,000 persons annually through the Ohio Colloquium, field days, Farm Science Review, presentations, conferences, and various publication materials.
- Demonstration farms have been established in Pike, Ross, Fulton, Defiance,
Van Wert and Pickaway Counties to study the effectiveness of MSEA management practices under real world farming conditions. These farms are jointly coordinated by farmers, Extension agents, state specialists, district conservationists, agricultural in dustry representatives, and researchers.
- County-specific water resource fact sheets were developed and published for 51 Ohio counties.
- Out of 1,305 farmers/landowners interviewed in the basin, most respondents emphasized efficiency and economics when making decisions on adopting new farm technologies and alternative cropping systems. They also believe that nitrate and pesticide contamina tion of ground water pose a minor threat to the health of family members.
- In the Scioto River Watershed, farmer use of no-till has increased 13 percent from 1989 to 1995 and monitoring results in two municipal water supply reservoirs suggest a declining trend in nitrate concentrations during the same period.
ARS-Norman Fausey, 614-292-9806
CSREES/OSU-Andy Ward, 614-292-9354
USGS-Steve Hindall, 614-469-5553
CSREES/ES-Larry C. Brown, 614-292-3826
NRCS-Art Brate, 614-469-6914