Case Studies

Case studies have been selected to focus on agricultural water use, water quality problems, appropriate combinations of practices, and climate change effects in the following geographic areas: Lake Erie/Maumee Basin, Ohio River Watershed, Upper Mississippi River Basin, Missouri River Watershed, Lower Mississippi River Basin, and the Great Lakes Fox/Wolf Watershed. They all focus on corn and soybean farming systems where nutrient discharges are a concern. Most are in areas where there is a need for tile drainage.

Case study teams will exchange expertise on practices such as soil amendments, 4Rs, controlled drainage, woodchip bioreactors and P filters, variable rate technologies, tillage, cover crops, crop rotations, nutrient management and two stage ditches. Discussion will include socio-economic factors, barriers to adoption and methods, tools and watershed models that might be useful estimating the water quality, production and economic benefits of different combinations of BMPs.

Please click on case study links to learn more.

Case Study 1: Central Platte NRD in Missouri River Basin

Location: The Central Platte Natural Resources District (NRD) is located in the center of Nebraska.

Team: The NRD has partnered with the University of Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to address the problem.

Focus: The concentration of nitrate-nitrogen in the groundwater beneath the NRD. Excess application of nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation water over the decades has contributed to elevated levels of nitrate-nitrogen in groundwater.

Case Study 2: Arkansas-Red-White Basin in Arkansas

Location: Edge-of-field monitoring sites are located on farms in the Illinois, Beaver Lake, Point Remove-Lake Conway, Bayou Meto, L’Anguille River, and Middle Bayou Macon watersheds.

Co-leaders: Mike Daniels and Andrew Sharpley, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

Key Team Members: University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, NRCS, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Farm Bureau and Producer led organizations such as the Arkansas Rice Federation, Arkansas Soybean Growers Association, Arkansas Corn Grower Association, Arkansas Cotton Grower Association, etc.

Focus: Edge-of-Field Monitoring of best management practice efficacy for nutrient and sediment reductions on both livestock and row crop farms and water conservation through improved irrigation techniques on row crop farms.

Case Study 3: Sunflower River Basin in Mississippi

Location: Harris Bayou and Porters Bayou (HUC 08030207) reside within the Sunflower River Watershed, which is part of the larger Yazoo River Basin which drains 13,355 square miles, covering all or parts of 30 counties. Case study monitoring sites are located in Coahoma, Bolivar, and Sunflower Counties, MS.

Co-leaders: Dr. Joby Czarnecki and Ms. Beth Baker, Mississippi State University

Key Team Members: Mississippi State University, Delta F.A.R.M, USGS, MS Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), USEPA

Focus: Tiered monitoring of best management practice efficacy for nutrient reductions following implementation in the Sunflower River Basin.

Case Study 4: Mullenbach Two-Stage Ditch, Mower County, MN

Location: The Cedar River watershed is located in the Lower Mississippi River Basin along the border of Iowa. The Mullenbach two-stage drainage ditch site is located in rural Mower County in southern Minnesota, USA. The ditch is located in the headwaters of the Little Cedar River within the Upper Cedar River watershed.

Co-leaders: Dr. Bruce Wilson and Dr. Joe Magner

Key Team Members: Representatives from the Mower County SWCD

Focus: The main water quality concern in this watershed is the elevated levels of nitrates which contribute to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. This concern is currently being addressed through the voluntary use of in-field, riparian and in-stream BMP’s, such as the two-stage drainage ditch design.

Case Study 5: St. Croix/Red Cedar River Basin Farmer-Led Watershed Council Project

Location: The St. Croix and Red Cedar River Basins are located in west central Wisconsin.

Project Personnel: Dunn County: Dan Prestebak, Conservationist; Amanda Hanson, Conservation Planner; Pierce County: Rod Webb, Conservationist; Dennis Fritz, Conservation Planner; Polk County: Tim Ritten, Conservationist; Eric Wojchik, Conservation Planner; St. Croix County: Bob Heise, Conservationist; Kyle Kulow, Conservation Planner; UW-Extension: Julia Olmstead, Outreach Specialist/Project Coordinator; Paul Kivlin, Nutrient Management Specialist

Focus: To improve water quality in the Red Cedar and St. Croix River basins through reduced phosphorus and sediment loading; to increase farmer knowledge on, and engagement with, water quality issues, including the adoption of conservation practices; to develop leadership around water quality among farmers in the selected sub-watersheds; and to develop a unique collaborative model of water quality improvement through farmer engagement that can be replicated in watersheds throughout the Upper Mississippi River Basin and nationwide.

Case Study 6: Not Available

Case Study 7: Shatto Ditch Watershed in Kosciusko County, IN

Location: Shatto Ditch Watershed in Kosciusko County, IN located in the larger Tippecanoe River Basin.

Team Leader and key team members: Jennifer Tank (Notre Dame), Darci Zolman (SWCD), and Kent Wamsley (IN-TNC).

Focus: Effect of the paired implementation of cover crops and the two-stage ditch to reduce watershed nutrient and sediment export.

Case Study 8: Upper Big Walnut Creek Watershed, Delaware County, OH

Location: Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed

Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP): This USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) project in the Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed is a multi-agency effort to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices and programs and develop the science base for managing the agricultural landscape for environmental quality. Findings will be used to guide USDA conservation policy and program development and help conservationists, farmers and ranchers make more informed conservation decisions.

Case Study 9: Beargrass Creek, Indiana (Ohio River Basin)

Location: Beargrass Creek in the Middle Eel River watershed in Wabash County, Indiana.

Team Leaders: Dr. Eileen McLellan of EDF and Dr. Joe Magner of Watershed Recovery, LLC

Key team members: Dr. Jerry Sweeten, Manchester College; Terri Michaelis, Watershed Coordinator; Susi Stephan, Wabash County Soil and Water Conservation District;Joe Updike, NRCS; Linda Prokopy, Purdue University; Mark Tomer, USDA-ARS; Sarah Porter, USDA-ARS; Doug Smith, USDA-ARS.

Focus: Extensive monitoring by Manchester College has shown that nitrogen and phosphorus loads in the Creek are high, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s SPARROW model indicates that Beargrass delivers over 275,000 pounds of agriculturally-derived nitrogen per year to the Gulf of Mexico. The Conservation Innovation Grant seeks to demonstrate the value of the watershed approach to reducing nitrogen and phosphorus export from Beargrass Creek by 45%.

Case Study 10: Oostanaula Creek Watershed in Tennessee

Location: The Oostanaula Creek is an agricultural watershed in eastern Tennessee. Oostanaula Creek is a tributary of the Hiwassee River, which begins in the mountains of northern Georgia and flows through North Carolina before veering west into Tennessee to join the Tennessee River.

Co-leaders: Dr. Forbes Walker and Ms. Lena Beth Reynolds, University of Tennessee Extension

Key Team Members: University of Tennessee, City of Athens Public Works, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service,, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, USEPA

Focus: Use the best available science to identify sources of water quality degradation and to encourage agricultural producers and other stakeholders to adopt cost-effective best management practices (BMPs) to reduce pathogen and sediment loading into the Oostanaula Creek watershed.

Case Study 11: Agricultural Phosphorus Sorbent

Location: Lake Erie Basin, Ohio

Team Leader: Dr. Elizabeth (Libby) Dayton

OSU team: Nick Basta and Shane Whitacre, Dr. Chris Holloman

Other team members: Kevin Elder, Terry Mescher, Pam Allen

Focus: The focus of the work will be establishing a General Use Permit Framework for beneficial use of WTR for OEPA. This will be an important step to streamline use of a municipal byproduct as an agricultural P sorbent.

Case Study 12: Lake Erie Basin Gypsum Soil Amendments

Location: The Maumee River Watershed in northwestern Ohio is a major tributary to the Western Lake Erie Basin. The Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed is located in western Ohio.

Key Team Members: Dr. Warren Dick, OSU and John Andersen, Greenleaf Advisors

Focus: The project has five specific objectives: (1) quantify at field-scale the degree to which FGD gypsum applied to agricultural fields can reduce phosphorus loading to surface waters; (2) assess at field-scale the role of FGD gypsum to enhance crop yields; (3) perform plot-scale studies to provide more detailed information concerning the effects of varying gypsum application rates on crop yields for different soil and crop types; (4) support development of best management practices for on-farm FGD gypsum use; and (5) perform education/outreach to support proper FGD gypsum.

Case Study 13: Thames River Watershed, Southern Ontario

Location: Ilderton, Londesborough and St. Marys sites

Team Leader and key team members: Merrin Macrae, Kevin McKague, Gabrielle Ferguson, Richard Brunke, Ivan O’Halloran, Derek Robinson

Focus: Seasonality and year round losses of phosphorus in tile drainage and surface runoff; effects of multiple BMPs (tillage, fertilizer application methods) on P loads.

Case Study 14: Loss Creek Watershed in Crawford County, OH

Location: Loss Creek Watershed in Crawford County, OH located in the Sandusky River Watershed

Team Leader and key Team members: Rick Wilson, Mike Hall, Joe Bonnell, Jon Witter & Andy Ward

Focus: Lake Erie Nutrient Reduction Demonstration Project: An innovative performance-based approach to nutrient reduction using an enhanced Ohio P-Index. The adoption of conservation practice adoption was realized through reimbursing producers for implementing new P-Risk reduction practices.

Case Study 15: Creel Ditch Two-Stage Project, Steuben County, IN

Location: Creel Ditch is part of the St. Joseph River – Fish Creek: Creel Ditch in Steuben County, Indiana

Fish Creek Targets: Overall, significant contributors to nonpoint source pollution in the Fish Creek Watershed are livestock, row crops with conventional tillage practices and a lack of riparian buffer and urban areas, specifically Hamilton.

Creel Ditch: Creel Ditch was an incised drainage channel draining a 4.7 square mile watershed covered by row crops and pasture (69%), water and wetlands (16%) and low and high density development (6%). In 2006, TNC’s Upper St. Joseph Project Office (now WLEB AG Project Office) received a grant from The Joyce Foundation to implement conservation practices in the Creel Ditch Watershed to reduce sedimentation to the downstream receiving system, Fish Creek.

Case Study 16: Co-Evolution of Upstream Human Behavior and Downstream Ecosystem Services in a Changing Climate

Location: Maumee Watershed and western Lake Erie

Leader: Dr. Jay Martin

Focus: Using the Maumee River watershed and western Lake Erie as a model ecosystem, this project will quantify the co-evolution between upstream human behavior and downstream ecosystem services. It will model how public attitudes co-evolve with downstream ecosystem conditions and shape support for policies that impact agricultural management practices. It will also integrate biophysical models with behavioral models of public policy and farmer decision-making to predict co-evolution between public policies, farmer behavior and downstream ecosystems under alternative future scenarios.