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Edge of Field Project Starting Soon

A new project is getting ready to start at CEES: Edge of Field.  Led by Dr. Pierre-Andre Jacinthe of the IUPUI Department of Earth Sciences, Edge of Field is designed to determine whether improvements in water quality can be achieved by altering farm management practices (like fertilizer application) at Starkey Farms in Hendricks County. This project will not only provide data to inform land management decisions in Central Indiana, but will also serve as a model of collaboration among agencies implicated in the management of water quality in agricultural watersheds around the nation.

Edge of Field is unique in its water quality monitoring approach; whereas most projects monitor water quality on certain days or at specific times, the Edge of Field project is designed to continuously monitor water quality, eliminating gaps in data.  This continuous monitoring methodology allows researchers to see when chemical upwellings occur that may not have been caught with a sporadic sampling protocol.   The Edge of Field project is also based on a unique partnership: IUPUI is partnering directly with local farmers at Starkey Farms and conducting research alongside them.

Monitoring instruments are scheduled for installation sometime in the month of October with the first round of data collection coming in spring 2015.  Instruments for the project will be fixed near the banks of a stream that is surrounded by farm field on both sides.  These monitoring devices will collect runoff and tile waters from the farm fields over a period of 4-6 years; this data will then be analyzed for water chemistry changes.  The first 2 years will be used to establish a water chemistry baseline for current land management practices.  In years 3-4, land management practices will be altered on side#1 of the stream and compared to the original practices on side #2 to determine impact on water quality (see schematic below).  There are also monitoring stations to be placed north and south of the farm field to monitor stream water chemistry upstream and downstream of Starkey Farms. 

Schematic of experimental design of the Edge of Field Project. Red boxes indicate monitoring instruments.

As a component of the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), this monitoring effort by the Indiana office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) at Starkey Farms will benefit from other collaborative activities undertaken in the watershed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), and CEES.


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