The NCERA-217 group (North Central Extension and Research Activity 217 – Drainage Design and Management Practices to Improve Water Quality) was established to bring together researchers and Extension specialists from 13 institutions, USDA-NRCS, and USDA-ARS to address the issues resulting from nutrient loss from drained agricultural landscapes. Through collaboration, networking, and information-sharing, the multi-state committee has worked to promote and advance research and implementation of new technologies and strategies that maintain crop productivity while mitigating water quality impacts from drained agriculture. The NCERA-217 group works closely with the Conservation Drainage Network to foster collaboration on Extension and outreach programming, particularly with industry and private-sector stakeholders, in order to maximize impact and to create and implement strategies to facilitate communication among scientists and policy makers. State and agency NCERA-217 members are listed below.
|Gary Hawkins, University of Georgia
|Laura Christianson, University of Illinois
Richard Cooke, University of Illinois
|Jane Frankenberger, Purdue University
Eileen Kladivko, Purdue University
|Matt Helmers, Iowa State University
|Bill Ford, University of Kentucky
|Ehsan Ghane, Michigan State University
Tim Harrigan, Michigan State University
|Jeff Strock, University of Minnesota
Gary Sands, University of Minnesota
|Kelly Nelson, University of Missouri
|Larry Geohring, Cornell University
|Xinhua Jia, North Dakota State University
Aaron Daigh, North Dakota State University
|Gary Feyereisen, Soil and Water Management Research Group
|Clarence Prestwich, West National Technology Support Center
|Zach Easton, Virginia Tech
Collaboration between the Conservation Drainage Network and NCERA-217 has resulted in a number of new and effective drainage design and management options, all of which reduce nutrient delivery to our nation’s waters, while maintaining strong crop productivity. For example, members of the network studied the effectiveness of edge-of-field structures across the Midwest, New York, North Carolina, and Canada and worked with USDA-NRCS to establish design standards for these practices (e.g., Conservation Practice Standard #554 “Drainage Water Management,” CPS #604 “Saturated Buffer,” and CPS #605 “Denitrifying Bioreactor”). Each standard details the official federal design specifications required for any cost-shared instance of the given practice and serves as a critical resource to consistently and effectively applying these practices across the country. The existence of these standards means farmers can apply for cost-sharing of these practices, dramatically increasing producer interest.
Applied research and outreach has led to many of our recommendations being adopted by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force and by many of the Mississippi basin states in developing individual state strategies for nutrient reduction as required by USEPA. Our efforts have led the USDA-NRCS establishing the National Ag Water Management (AGWAM) Team to increase the adoption of improved drainage practices with a focus on the Upper Mississippi River Basin, the Great Lakes Basin, and the Red River of the North. In these ways, our work has moved beyond the field to positively influence policy and the adoption of improved practices.
In the past four years, network members have published more than 120 peer-reviewed publications and 80 Extension and non-refereed publications; delivered nearly 300 presentations to farm, research, and state/federal agency audiences; and have received 2 national ASABE extension excellence awards for regional publications. Network members led development and planning of the 10th International Drainage Symposium with 250 attendees representing the U.S., Denmark, Canada, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Netherlands (134 presentations/abstracts which resulted in publication of 14 papers in special issues of the Transactions of the ASABE and Applied Engineering in Agriculture). Collaborative efforts among members resulted in multi-institutional and cross-disciplinary projects totaling more than $30M including funding by the USDA-NRCS-CIG program, USDA-NIFA-AFRI, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. The NCERA-217 committee was recently awarded the 2018 Experiment Station Section Award for Excellence in Multistate Research.