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Creating online tool to improve drainage water goal of researcher

RuudMorijn/Getty Images field with golden wheat and drainage ditch
NEW TOOL: A new decision-support tool will help improve water quality in drainage by telling users the most cost-effective ways to reduce nitrate loss on their farms.
The NRCS project is designed to help growers make decisions by taking both economic and environmental aspects into account.

Ehsan Ghane, assistant professor and Extension specialist in the Michigan State University Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, will receive a three-year, $614,000 grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement drainage systems that will help improve water quality on farms in Michigan and Iowa.

The goal is to create an online decision-support tool, or collection of data, to help in accelerating the adoption of saturated buffers, a type of conservation drainage practice. Conservation drainage refers to any practice designed to reduce nitrate levels in a field, while still providing adequate drainage for crops to grow.

“Saturated buffers reduce nitrate loss, which is a source of pollution, into surface water,” Ghane says. “Our decision-support tool will help improve water quality in drainage by telling a user the most cost-effective ways to reduce nitrate loss on their farm.”

High nitrate levels in drainage discharge can cause hypoxia, or low levels of oxygen in water. This results in poor water quality and can potentially harm aquatic life in an ecosystem.

Pouyan Nejadhashemi, MSU foundation professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, is a co-investigator on the grant and will lead the development of the decision-support tool. Nejadhashemi also leads the Decision Support and Informatics unit for the MSU Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.

“I am leading a group of people who will design a user-friendly online platform that integrates the saturated buffer routine, drainage model and the nitrate removal component,” he explains. “The tool will allow producers to better make decisions by taking both economic and environmental aspects of their design into account.”

Manal H. Askar, research associate in BAE, and Babak Saravi, research specialist in BAE, also are on the project team. Other collaborators include Iowa State University, North Carolina State University, Purdue University and the Iowa Soybean Association.

Along with his team, Ghane will conduct field experiments at locations in Iowa and southeast Michigan. Data will be used to develop the decision-support tool.

“This tool will help farmers reduce more nitrate loss with the least amount of investment,” Ghane says.

Once the decision-support tool is ready, Ghane and his team will organize an educational workshop in Michigan, and two in Iowa, to teach farmers, watershed coordinators, drainage experts, conservation professionals, NRCS personnel and policymakers how to use it properly and effectively. They also will create online training videos and fact sheets for reference as needed.

“Getting involved with the practical aspect of the work is my favorite part of a project,” Ghane says. “It will be exciting to demonstrate how this tool can be used and why it’s beneficial.”

Source: MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.


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