GIS and Cloud Computing Tools for Soil and Water Conservation: Grassed Waterways and Nitrogen Fertilizer Recommendations.

  • Pfeiffer, Todd (PI)
  • Mueller, Thomas (Former PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Nutrient and sediment loading are severe watershed problems world-wide, compromising water quality. Grassed waterways reduce runoff and nutrient and sediment delivery to surface waters. Specifically, they reduce ephemeral gully erosion which accounts for about 40% of all erosion in agricultural fields (Bennett et al., 2000). Studies have shown that grassed waterways reduced sediment by 82 percent (Fiener and Auerswald, 2003) and dissolved reactive phosphorus by as much as a factor of 7 and particulate phosphorus by as much as a factor of 10 (Fiener and Auerswald, 2009). Grassed waterway systems are underutilized as is evident while driving throughout the state or viewing aerial images in Google Earth; active ephemeral gully erosion is still prevalent in many fields throughout Kentucky. This is despite the fact that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) programs provide payments for constructing grassed waterway systems. One of the main reasons for the serious underutilization of these programs is that implementation of appropriate design processes is both time- and labor-intensive. With current technologies, the USDA does not have sufficient man-power to design the required /number of waterways. Further complicating the issue is the fact that landowners are unable to visualize how grassed waterway designs work in their fields, making the individuals less likely to adopt these procedures. The University of Kentucky publishes fertilizer nitrogen rates based on NRCS soil drainage class, tillage practices, and previous crop. These are based the range of agronomic optimal N rates determined from years of field research conducted across Kentucky. Using these rates can save farmers money and can protect against over application of nitrogen, thereby protect surface and ground waters. Some farmers do not utilize these rates because they can be somewhat complicated to determine. For farmers who do not have access to map software or services, they must 1) print off drainage maps from the web soil survey, 2) look at AGR-1 and correct the drainage classes for the soils listed in Table 1, 3) use AGR-1 Tale 13 to determine which nitrogen rate range to use. Doing this over thousands of acres is time consuming and is further complicated by the fact that these recommendations must be updated each year, depending on the price of corn and fertilizer nitrogen. The goal of the proposed project is to develop innovative geospatial soil and water conservation mapping tools to 1) help professional conservation planners more efficiently identify where grassed waterways are needed, and 2) to help farmers rapidly determine AGR-1 recommended nitrogen rates for their fields. It will also improve grassed waterway performance by linking with a filter strip design tool to show how wide the filter strip should be along the sides of the waterways. This tool will be made available to conservation planners in the office and in the field through user-friendly, state-of-the-art GIS and cloud computing techniques. This proposal has three objectives: 1. to develop, test, and provide training for a desktop GIS application to easily create grassed waterway planning maps (Mockup shown in Figure S1); 2. to develop, test, and provide training for a mobile cloud computing based system to determine recommended nutrients as recommended by AGR-1 (Mockup shown in Figure S2); 3. conduct a preliminary water quality study to evaluate the effectiveness of these practices.
Effective start/end date9/1/1212/31/13


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