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Monitoring changes in nutrient and sediment concentrations and loads to downstream aquatic systems to assess the use of cover crops as an in-field BMP in a HUC 12 watershed

Robert Kröger

Research Associate:  Beth Poganski

The state of Mississippi has recently implemented a nonpoint sources pollution management program that relies on statewide and targeted watershed approaches. This program advocates the voluntary implementation of best management practices, nutrient reduction strategies, and monitoring of private lands via financial support through federal assistance programs. One of the involved federal agencies is the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which through a memorandum of agreement with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) provides Section 319 funds to be used for the assessment and monitoring of National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) sites. The North Tippah watershed, a tributary of the Tippah River, is targeted in the current NWQI as a site to implement management practices to improve water quality.

With funding providing from NRCS NWQI together with NRCS 201 and 202 monitoring and assessment programs, this edge of field (EOF) monitoring design will answer the question how cover crops on no-till ground change the concentration and load of nutrients in surface runoff. Edge of field monitoring will occur in a pre- and post-monitoring fashion, as well as in a paired watershed approach. Two sites will be monitored. At each site there will be a control (i.e., no cover crops), compared against two treatment sites (w/ cover crops). The pollutants specifically being addressed are sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus. Cover crops are gaining popularity within the county, HUC and throughout the State of Mississippi. There are unknowns about the use of the cover crops, i.e., downstream impacts, tillage management after burn down, change in soil organic matter, etc. This study will provide a number of answers around cover crops that would increase it use as a conservation practice in Mississippi.

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