FOCUS ON AGRICULTURE: Vegetative buffers reduce herbicide runoff

Posted: Jan. 17, 2013 9:38 am Updated: Feb. 14, 2013 11:15 am


Research has shown that vegetative buffers are very good at controlling sediment and keeping it out of waterways.

Then Bob Lerch, a soil scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Missouri, and his colleagues decided to see how well buffers reduced herbicides in soils with high runoff potential.

Research work began in 2004 with buffer plots at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources' Bradford Research Center. A longer-term experiment, finished in 2010, looked at four different buffer treatments involving different types of grasses -- tall fescue; tall fescue with a switchgrass hedge; a mixture of warm-season grasses including Indian, switch and eastern gamma grasses; and no vegetation.

Plots were split in two. The lower part had the buffer. The upper part was sprayed with a chemical, which was sampled as it went through the buffer.

"We found that grass buffers across the board were effective," Lerch said. "Every buffer was better than nothing."

Finding the correlation between the width of the buffer and how effective it is in reducing contaminants has implications for design. That information can be given to the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other land management agencies.

"The relationship of how much contaminant is reduced versus the width of the buffer is really the basis for design criteria," he said. "For something like atrazine, if you have a 20-to-1 drainage to buffer ration, you will get 30 to 35 percent reduction. Is that good enough? Well, someone has to decide what is good enough, but we deliver the numbers."

NRCS has not yet adopted the findings into their technical field guides. Lerch says it takes time for the research to translate into what gets done in the field. The key is to educate people and make sure they understand the science so it can be effectively put into practice.


Oil expansion

A new partnership between the national soy checkoff and industry aims to grow the market for a promising, healthier soy oil.

High-oleic oil features significantly increased oxidative stability, which is critical for high heat applications like frying foods, and also contains less saturated fats.

"We have an opportunity to expand the acreage for high-oleic soybeans and strengthen U.S. soy's competitive position in the food and industrial sectors," said Vanessa Kummer, a former chair of the United Soybean Board and a soybean farmer from North Dakota.

The partnership accelerates the market development of high-oleic soybeans. It aims to have high-oleic soybeans available in maturity groups that cover up to 80 percent of U.S. soybean acres by 2020. Without the proposal, current industry projections put high-oleic soybeans at 5 to 10 percent of acres in 2020.

USB is partnering with DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto on the project outlining development of a broader range of maturity groups at a more rapid pace to reach the goal acreage and meet consumer demands.

Checkoff farmer-leaders will review the five-year project's impact on farmer profitability before making each year's financial commitments.

"This partnership will rapidly drive market adoption in key soybean-producing areas," Kummer said. "By expanding high-oleic soy's availability, we are sending the right signals to the entire value chain and helping to develop new markets for our soybeans. This is a strategic move for our entire industry."


-- Compiled by Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Deborah Gertz Husar


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