Date of Award
Master of Science
The agriculture community is faced with new challenges to increase food production on a limited amount of suitable land to keep up with the growing population. Fertilizers and intensive cropping are needed to meet food demand, but these practices contribute to environmental degradation due to nutrients and sediment leaving fields and entering waterbodies. Non-point source (NPS) pollution from agriculture has been scrutinized for significantly contributing to eutrophication and hypoxic dead zones. To reduce the harmful impacts of NPS pollution from agriculture, producers and land users have implemented in-field and edge-of-field Best Management Practices (BMP). Water and Sediment Control Basins (WASCoBs) are an example of an in-field BMP that has helped reduce erosion and sediment loading of receiving waters. Cover crops are another in-field BMP that have been used to mitigate erosion and nutrient leaching. The impacts of WASCoBs paired with cover crops on water quality, specifically nutrient loading, is lacking in the current literature and was the focus of this research. Our study site was located in Menard County near Atterberry, IL. The farm had relatively steep topography (5-18% slopes) and suffered from severe gully erosion. In 2018, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) partnered with the landowner and installed a series of WASCoBs to address the erosion issues. Along with the NRCS and landowner, we worked with the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) to investigate the impacts of WASCoBs and cover crops on nutrient and sediment runoff, hydrology, and crop yields.Four sub-watersheds were included in the study: 1) a 1.5-hectare basin treated with a WASCoB; 2) a 1.4-hectare basin treated with a WASCoB and a cover crop; 3) a 0.2-hectare gully drained watershed treated with a cover crop; and 4) a control, 3.8-hectare gully-drained watershed. ISCO automated water samplers collected runoff from storm events in a time-weighted composite sampling regime. The measured water quality parameters were total suspended solids (TSS), ammonium-nitrogen (ammonium-N), nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate-N), dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP), and total phosphorus (TP). The WASCoB treatment reduced TSS by 98.5-99.8%, TP by 83.8-97.4%, ammonium-N by 42.3-82.9%, and nitrate-N by 32.0-59.6%, respectively. Cover crop impacts on the water quality parameters were not detected, due to poor gemination of the annual rye cover crop. The water quality improvement WASCoBs are a potential tool for farmers and land managers to reduce loading of nutrients and sediment to receiving waters.
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