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Arkansas seeks to establish statewide water quality database

Database looking at pH balance and water hardness in farm pesticide spray water across Arkansas

The acidity, alkalinity and hardness of water used in farm pesticide spray applications can have a significant impact on the herbicide being used and researchers with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture are asking the help of growers in establishing a water hardness and pH database for the state.

Tommy Butts, Extension weed scientist and assistant professor for the Division of Agriculture, said Extension agents in every Arkansas county are available to help growers collect one-liter samples.

In addition to testing for pH, agents will test for hardness — or the amount of dissolved calcium or magnesium — and record the water sample’s GPS coordinates. Agents will also add a short description, noting the surrounding conditions. Samples will be analyzed at Division of Agriculture facilities.

“Primarily, we are looking at water that is used for pesticide spray applications, but this can include row crops, pastures, or anything else where this water is being used for pest control,” Butts said. “We will analyze the samples this fall, and we will make sure to share the results again with participants this winter.”

Butts said he and his fellow researchers, as well as Extension agents, had first collected samples for the database in 2019.

“I greatly appreciated the help that CES agents provided in the collection of samples last year, and I hope we can collect even more this year,” he said.

Butts said the goal of the research is to build a database of spray water quality in Arkansas. Once the results are analyzed, researchers will conduct studies to evaluate how water quality is affecting pesticide applications, and whether external adjustments can or should be made to improve the efficacy of pesticides.

Data from growers’ samples will be anonymized in the database, Butts said, and personal information will remain confidential. The GPS coordinates used to identify the location of specific samples will not be made public, but will be used to create a map depicting the general conditions of water throughout the state.

“I realize this may be a challenging task right now with the threat of COVID-19, but I wanted to at least share this now, so if there is a possibility of collecting samples, then we can do it,” Butts noted.

Producers interested in participating in the survey should contact their local CES office, or contact Butts directly at (501) 804-7314 or tbutts@uaex.edu. A directory of county offices can be found at https://www.uaex.edu/counties/default.aspx.

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