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Impact of Organic Animal Production Systems on Water Quality and Quantity in Ohio - An Integrated Research, Extension and Education Program

Investigators
Loerch, Steve
Institutions
Ohio State University
Start date
2009
End date
2012
Objective
A multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional team from The Ohio State University (OSU) and USDA-ARS Northern Appalachian Experimental Watershed (NAEW) will investigate the impact of organic and conventional grazing practices on water quality and quantity on headwater tributaries of the Muskingum River in NE Ohio.

This project has the long-term goal providing science-based information to organic dairy and beef farmers to enhance profitability, competitiveness, and water quality. Specific goals are:

  1. Determine effects of transition of beef cattle, intensively and continuously grazed pastures to certified organic management practices on surface and subsurface water quality and quantity on experimental gauged watersheds at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Northern Appalachian Experimental Watershed.
  2. Compare effects of organic and conventional dairy production systems on Headwater Habitat Evaluation Index (HHEI) and water chemistry in headwater streams of the Mill Creek and Sugar Creek watersheds in NE Ohio.
  3. Conduct extension programming for organic and transitioning organic dairy and beef pro-ducers that will enhance their competitiveness and enhance water quality.
  4. Conduct educational summer internship programs for secondary and university students and integrate information from objectives 1 and 2 into Ohio State University classes.
More information
Non-Technical Summary: Although there has been substantial growth in scientific studies of organic production systems in the U.S. (Stinner 2007), organic livestock research is in its infancy as are studies on environmental impacts of organic animal production systems on water quality. Our proposed project represents a pioneering assessment of effects of organic dairy and transitioning organic beef production systems on diverse aspects of water quality in the Midwest. Our approach will allow us to measure impacts within a controlled experiment on instrumented watersheds and on working farms within a "living" watershed. The organic livestock industry also is in its infancy in the U. S. (Greene et al. 2009). Consumer demand for organic meats is greater than supply (Greene et al. 2009). As this sector of the organic industry grows it is important for agricultural and environ-mental scientists, policy makers, farmers, consumers and society at large to understand environ-mental impacts of organic animal production systems on water quality. Data from our project will be especially important for NRCS personnel, as they implement 2008 Farm Bill provisions for transitioning organic and organic farmers.

Approach: We will determine effects of transitioning intensively and continuously grazed beef cattle to certified organic management on surface and subsurface water quality and quantity using replicated gauged watersheds at NAEW; compare water chemistry and Headwaters Habitat Evaluation Index (HHEI) on paired organic and conventional dairy farms in headwater streams of the Muskingum watershed; conduct extension programming for organic and transitioning organic dairy and beef producers to enhance their competitiveness and enhance water quality; and conduct educational summer internship programs for secondary and university students and integrate research output into OSU classes. The experimental and on-farm data will be integrated and extrapolated into the future using the ArcAPEX modeling system. One unique feature is use of the HHEI developed by the OhioEPA to assess the biological health of headwater streams. Another is the participation at all stages in the research and outreach of the Small Farm Institute, a grassroots stakeholder organization specializing in grazing agriculture. The scale of this research, ~200 km2, and the integration of research and outreach from the start will ensure that the outreach, both extension and education, will be widely applicable.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
OHO01057-SS
Accession number
220197
Categories
Education and Training
Sanitation and Quality Standards