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Implementing Innovative Drainage Management Practices in the Mississippi River Basin to Enhance Nutrient Reductions

Kroger, R., Prince Czarnecki, J. M., Tank, J. L., Christopher, S. F., & Witter, J. D. (2015). Implementing Innovative Drainage Management Practices in the Mississippi River Basin to Enhance Nutrient Reductions. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 51(4), 1020-1028. DOI:10.1111/1752-1688.12342.

Abstract

In the Mississippi River Basin (MRB), practices that enhance drainage (e.g., channelization, tile drainage) are necessary management tools in order to maintain optimal agricultural production in modern farming systems. However, these practices facilitate, and may speed the delivery of excess nutrients and sediments to downstream water bodies via agricultural streams and ditches. These nonpoint sources contribute to elevated nutrient loading in the Gulf of Mexico, which has been linked to widespread hypoxia and associated ecological and economic problems. Research suggests agricultural drainage ditches are important links between farm fields and downstream ecosystems, and application of new management practices may play an important role in the mitigation of water quality impairments from agricultural watersheds. In this article, we describe how researchers and producers in the MRB are implementing and validating novel best management practices (BMPs) that if used in tandem could provide producers with continued cropping success combined with improved environmental protection. We discuss three BMPs — low-grade weirs, slotted inlet pipes, and the two-stage ditch. While these new BMPs have improved the quality of water leaving agricultural landscapes, they have been validated solely in isolation, at opposite ends of the MRB. These BMPs have similar function and would greatly benefit from stacked incorporation across the MRB to the benefit of the basin as a whole.


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