Making Sense of the Alphabet Soup

wordcloudBAA, APLU, WAAESD, NEED, AHS, NIFA…trying to make sense of the alphabet soup of acronyms casually and expertly tossed around at meetings? Download our Acronym Guide!

2016 Joint ESS/CES-NEDA Meeting & Fall WAAESD Meeting, Grand Teton N.P., September 19-22, 2016

FC13E5DC-155D-451F-67034E2B9C908F88-largeIn this first ever joint meeting of Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Sections, we will focus on partnership—the power and possibility—as we identify current and potential partnerships where our organizations are aligned, learn about best practices for research and application efforts, and engage with one another on national agendas. – See more at: https://conferencereg.colostate.edu/Jackson2016
This meeting will include the regular fall Experiment Station Section business meeting and the regular fall meeting of the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors. Check the agenda at the link above for details.

NEW!! NIMSS Training & Handbook

nimss vectorizedThe National Information Management and Support System (NIMSS) is a web-based application that allows participants of Multistate Research Projects to submit proposals and reports online and register to participate on projects. Interested parties, stakeholders, and cooperators can also query the NIMSS for relevant and timely information on multistate projects.

In 2015, a new and improved version of this online database and project management system was launched. As part of the launch of the new NIMSS, a new basics training video is now available. This 35 minute video covers most of the functions required for Administrative Advisors and those functioning as or on behalf of an AES station director. A handbook on the New NIMSS is also out now, and will be updated periodically as the New NIMSS is refined.

As always, please feel free to contact me or your respective NIMSS regional system administrator (RSA) with any questions about the new NIMSS or the multistate program.

WERA-77 (2009-2014): Managing Invasive Weeds in Wheat

With rolling hills and deep soils, the Palouse region in the northwestern US is a major agricultural area and a leading producer of wheat. USDA-ARS photo.

With rolling hills and deep soils, the Palouse region in the
northwestern US is a major agricultural area and a leading
producer of wheat. USDA-ARS photo.

Invasive Weeds Threaten Winter Wheat Yield & Quality

Invasive weeds infest more than 20 million acres of winter wheat in the western US, costing growers over $500 million in yield losses each year.  Dense infestations of weeds can result in complete crop failure. Smaller weed populations decrease wheat yields and increase the amount of weed  seeds and stems that must be cleaned from harvested wheat grain. Weeds can also interact with viruses and other pests and have complex, synergistic impacts on grain yields and quality. Furthermore, many weeds are developing resistance to herbicides, requiring higher and/or more frequent  applications, which can raise production costs, injure wheat plants, and pose threats to environmental and human health. Many weeds are difficult to  manage. Thorough, up-to-date information about weed biology, ecology, and genetics is required to develop best management practices that offer  integrated control.

Multistate Research Project Improves Weed Control & Wheat Production

Mayweed chamomile, a common weed in the western US, often grows in winter wheat fields. Photo by Andreas Krappweis. RGBStock.com License.

Mayweed chamomile, a common weed in the western US,
often grows in winter wheat fields. Photo by Andreas Krappweis.
RGBStock.com License.

Multistate Research and Extension Project WERA-77 formed to find sustainable, economical ways to manage invasive weeds in wheat. Coordinating  research and extension efforts across the region has facilitated rapid transmission of new knowledge and promising technologies to wheat growers. In  particular, the project has provided the tools and information for quicker, more accurate identification of weed species. Faster identification has led to timely, targeted herbicide applications that prevent serious, costly outbreaks. Data from research trials have also been used to support labeling of  herbicides for use in diverse wheat production systems. Continued education has encouraged more wheat growers to carefully manage herbicide use  so that the onset of herbicide resistance in weed species is delayed as long as possible. New herbicides and application guidelines have helped growers  control invasive weeds efficiently and avoid wheat injury and yield reductions. Additionally, because of WERA-77 trials and demonstrations, farmers   are aware of effective ecological approaches to managing weeds. For example, WERA-77 studies showed that the combination of taller wheat varieties and increased seeding rates can be a viable and simple way to reduce weed seed production. WERA-77 studies also improved and expanded the use of  winter canola as a crop rotation that improves weed control in wheat. For the 2011-2012 growing season, a record level of around 200,000 acres of  winter canola were planted. All in all, WERA-77’s efforts have helped maintain the competitiveness of wheat production in western states.

Research Activities

Researchers conducted long-term field experiments and analyzed genes to identify wheat varieties with higher tolerance to both weeds and the  herbicides used to control weeds. Based on their findings, a Colorado State University wheat breeder developed a two-gene hard red winter Clearfield   wheat, which is much more tolerant to Beyond herbicide. A more tolerant wheat variety has allowed for more aggressive and effective control of  stubborn weeds such as feral rye. Studies also examined wheat injury rates due to certain rates, timings, and combinations of herbicide applications.  In two trials in eastern Oregon, all of the tested winter wheat varieties exhibited injury if Osprey was applied in cold conditions. Although Aim and  Vida applications caused irregular necrotic flecks on the leaves of Goetze, Skiles, and cultivar 726 wheat varieties shortly after application, the wheat recovered, and no further injury was documented from the additional 16 herbicide treatments. Researchers also evaluated Tubbs 06 and 301 (an experimental variety near release) under western Oregon growing conditions and detected no major herbicide sensitivity problems.

Long-term field experiments and genetic analysis were also used to identify problematic herbicide-resistant weed varieties. For example, researchers surveyed wheat fields for herbicide-resistant hybrid weeds produced by crossing of jointed goatgrass and Clearfield wheat. A Montana project assessed the synergistic effects of stressors like soil moisture, pests, and viruses on both wheat yields and weed yields. Findings will help scientists evaluate whether the joint usage of pathogens, insects, and herbicides provides efficient, durable management of weeds like Canada thistle.
In several studies, researchers treated different weed samples with a wide range of existing and newly developed herbicides to determine weed sensitivity and proper herbicide application rate. Montana State University researchers screened herbicides under a range of environmental and crop conditions. Under cold conditions, herbicide uptake by weeds was limited, allowing weeds to survive a field application. In another study, fall  applications of three different herbicides provided greater than 90% control of downy brome, while spring applications provided only about 60% control.

WERA-77 also identified non-chemical methods for controlling invasive weeds in wheat. Researchers found that increasing wheat seeding rate and crop height reduced weed seed production by approximately 30% and 20%, respectively. Field and greenhouse studies showed that burning narrow windrows can reduce Italian ryegrass seed survival and can be an effective tactic for integrated control of Italian ryegrass in the Palouse region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Italian ryegrass emergence was 63% in the non-burned control, 48% in the burned standing stubble, and 1% with burned windrow treatments. Researchers also found that higher elevation and steeper slope reduced mayweed chamomile and common lambsquarter weed presence. Looking at how conservation tillage and crop rotation practices affect weeds, researchers found that Italian ryegrass and mayweed chamomile weeds increased when crops rotated from winter wheat to spring wheat to spring alternative crop with a no-tillage system. Other studies showed that using canola as a winter rotation crop effectively controls winter grass weeds. Researchers also showed that grazing sheep on grain stubble could impact weed communities and population dynamics. To reduce movement and dispersal of invasive weed seed sources, researchers evaluated weed seed dormancy and longevity and developed methods to help manage weed seed banks.

Extension

To encourage adoption of new weed control strategies, WERA-77 developed outreach programs to provide up-to-date information on weed  management to wheat growers, crop consultants, grain merchandisers, grain processors, Extension personnel, and other scientists. Researchers at  Oregon State University and Washington State University hosted tours of research trials for interested industry partners. These tours have allowed about 150 individuals representing multiple companies to see demonstrations and have open discussions. Oregon State University Extension,  researchers, and faculty developed and taught a Wheat Production Short Course. The course was well-received and attended by western Oregon wheat rowers, agricultural chemical industry personnel, faculty, and students. Project members also delivered presentations at several  industry grower meetings and Extension meetings and produced hard copy and online Extension bulletins. Colorado State University and Montana State University  developed an electronic key to identify weed species, and in Idaho, project members created the Herbicide Resistance and Persistence computer  program, which is available for free download. WERA-77 members from Idaho, Washington, and Oregon also published—and continuously update —chapters in the Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook.

The Palouse region in the northwestern US is rapidly adopting canola as a winter rotation crop to control weeds in wheat fields. Photo by SeattleForge, Flickr.

The Palouse region in the northwestern US is rapidly adopting canola as a winter rotation
crop to control weeds in wheat fields. Photo by SeattleForge, Flickr.

Want to know more?

This project was supported, in part, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture by the Multistate Research Fund established in 1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act to encourage and enhance multistate, multidisciplinary research on critical issues that have a national or regional priority. Additional funds were provided by contracts and grants to participating scientists. For more information,  visit https://www.waaesd.org.

Download/Print PDF

Administrative Advisor: H. Michael Harrington

Participating Institutions:

  • Colorado State University
  • University of Idaho
  • Kansas State University
  • Montana State University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Oregon Cooperative Extension
  • Texas AgriLife Extension Service
  • Utah State University
  • Washington State University
  • University of Wyoming

Impact Statement compiled by Sara Delheimer.

W-2170 (2009-2014): Soil-Based Use of Residuals, Wastewater & Reclaimed Water

Biosolids can be applied to farmland as a substitute for fertilizer. City of Geneva photo.

Biosolids can be applied to farmland as a substitute for fertilizer. City of Geneva photo.

Reusing Waste Addresses Many Issues, but Major Obstacles Exist

Millions of tons of municipal, agricultural, and industrial solid waste are discarded each year in the U.S. Often, these solid wastes are disposed of in landfills or incinerated, which is  costly to the industries and the public. Reusing solid wastes as soil substitutes, soil additives, or fertilizers could cut disposal costs and reduce landfill volume as well as help restore  disturbed land and boost crop productivity. Wastewater (degraded water, stormwater, irrigation return flow, graywater, and effluents from livestock operations) can be reused in lieu of  freshwater extractions—a popular option as water shortages loom. Soil can help treat reclaimed water by absorbing some of the nutrients before they have a chance to runoff into nearby bodies of water. Still, in 2009, less than 10% of treated wastewaters were reused.

The lack of standardized regulations for reusing wastes has been a major obstacle, particularly with  concerns that wastes contain potential contaminants, including excess nitrogen, phosphorous, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and trace pharmaceuticals. More research is needed to  determine the persistence of these compounds after waste is applied to soil and the potential threats they pose to air, water, and soil quality, or exposed plants, livestock, wildlife, and  humans. The bioavailability of potential contaminants varies with different waste processing technologies, soil types, climates, and land management practices. In order to reuse wastes  safely, practical scientific knowledge is needed to determine if and how waste can be used in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner in certain areas.

Aerial view of Stickney Wastewater Treatment Plan. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Aerial view of Stickney Wastewater Treatment Plan. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Multistate Research and Extension Project Yields Safer Waster Reuse Policies and Practices

Multistate Research Project W-2170 has made considerable advancements in
understanding how to safely and economically reuse wastes. Over the last five years,
researchers conducted field experiments, greenhouse studies, and laboratory tests
with different wastes in varying conditions and developed new methods and tools to
help evaluate the short- and long-term effects of applying wastes to soils.

W-2170 researchers identified processes that reduce contaminants in wastes, so that they can be reused safely.

  • Pre-tilling soil prior to applying liquid wastes or manure reduces runoff of many contaminants into nearby surface and groundwater.
  • Adding compost and biosolids (treated sewage sludge) to soils reduces potential of transferring contaminants like lead and arsenic to humans via vegetable consumption and soil ingestion.
  • A new process for composting biosolids has resulted in an odor-free product that will have greater public acceptance for urban use.

W-2170’s research has made it possible to develop science-based regulations and policies for reusing wastes.

  • These regulations and policies have been used by a range of stakeholders, including municipal wastewater treatment plant operators, farmers, industries in charge of site remediation, and project managers from US EPA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, among others.
  • New rules for setting limits on contaminants now require bioavailability assessments, which allows safer, more accurate limits.
  • Regulations and standards have made it easier for industries to get the proper permitting and safely institute reuse processes that make them more competitive and sustainable.
  • A testing program for soil amendments made from industrial by-products resulted in eight new materials being recommended for labeling by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2012. Receiving an official state label has economic and public relations benefits for industries. The testing program has also rejected products that pose risks to soil and water quality.

Waste reuse policies and
practices can lower waste
disposal costs, reduce
freshwater extraction,
improve soil quality,
and scale back use of
agrochemicals. Reusing
waste allows existing
industries and agriculture to
be more sustainable and
opens the door for new
industries and jobs.

Increased adoption of waste reuse policies influenced by W-2170 has reduced landfill waste and saved on disposal costs.

  • Annually diverting one million tons of spent foundry sand from landfills would realize annual savings of $30,000,000 by the foundry industry.
  • Workshops and demonstrations promoted diversion of unusable food to animal feed or compost, thus reducing the disposal of such waste to landfills or incinerators.
  • The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality accepted a new screening system developed by Virginia Tech researchers to identify reusable dredge sediments. This system is unique to the US and should lead to a major expansion of beneficial reuse of dredge sediments, which will decrease the cost of sediment management for the public taxpayer and lead to substantial income streams and improved soil productivity for receiving landowners.

Increased adoption of waste reused as substitute fertilizers and soil amendments has improved soil quality and improved plant yields, especially in drought.

  • Farming communities have successfully adopted the use of biosolids and food waste compost to alleviate soil acidity. Adding these wastes to soils to solve soil acidity problems that plague many regions in the developing world.
  • Biosolids wastewater contains a lot of phosphorous—an essential nutrient for crops, and reusing it on farmland can help farmers improve phosphorous-poor soils and provide wastewater treatment plant operators with a viable option for recycling phosphorous.
  • Applying biosolids to fields can increase crop yields more than synthetic fertilizers because they promote microorganisms that help protect plants against drought stress.

Reusing waste as substitute fertilizers and soil amendments has also reduced phosphorous leaching and runoff.

  • Using drinking water treatment residuals (DWTR) to absorb excess phosphorous reduces leaching and runoff from agricultural land. DWTR with high iron and aluminum concentrations especially reduce the solubility of phosphorous—more than either commercial fertilizers or animal manures. Methods generated by W-2170 for applying DWTR make this promising water quality protection technology a practical option.

W-2170 developed management practices for minimizing greenhouse gas emissions when reusing wastes to amend soils.

  • Long-term application—or one high application—of compost or biosolids to soils in the Mid-Atlantic region can accelerate soil carbon accumulation and increase soil carbon concentrations while also improving soil physical properties that enhance plant productivity.
Research plots for the Maryland Port Adminstration Cox Creek dredge study will determine if dredge sediment is suitable for reuse.

Research plots for the Maryland Port Adminstration Cox Creek dredge study will determine if dredge sediment is suitable for reuse.

W-2170 has provided options for cost-effective land reclamation through reuse of wastes.

  • Use of biosolids to rehabilitate contaminated ecosystems has been included as an option for a number of EPA Superfund National Priority List sites.
  • W-2170 developed gardening initiatives for brownfields that involve amending soils with wastes to reduce contaminants in the soil. This work is allowing brownfields to be turned into community gardens that produce crops without potentially adverse health effects to the grower or the consumer.
  • Commonly used, inexpensive, and widely available agricultural soil tests can be used to screen lead-enriched urban soil. Rapid and affordable lead assessment will allow city planners, communities, and other groups to convert vacant land into urban farms, gardens, parks, playgrounds, and other common areas.
  • Virginia’s adoption of the W-2170’s proposed practices for using biosolids to restore mined land has resulted in changes in mine operations and closure procedures and lower cost options for disturbed land reclamation.
  • Using high amounts of biosolids and compost to reconstruct and restore prime farmland following mineral sands mining decreases the cost of mining, increases landowner royalty return, and provides optimal soil productivity for future crops with minimal risks of nitrogen leaching to groundwater.
  • Using W-2170 research, Virginia Tech and Iluka Resources, Inc. successfully petitioned their state regulatory agency for a waiver of requirements to save and return topsoil on their mineral sands mines in eastern Virginia. This permit amendment will add millions of dollars to the company, landowners via royalty return, local counties via severance tax, and the state via increased corporate tax base. Iluka Resources, Inc. was awarded the National Mined Land Reclamation Award by the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, and W-2170 was credited as the underpinning source of technology.
  • The first use of trading credits to pay for poultry manure transport from farm to mine reclamation site occurred in Pennsylvania as a result of W-2170’s research on mine land reclamation.

W-2170 advancements have led to emerging markets, industries, and jobs.

  • Spent foundry sand in Ohio can be used as a component of manufactured soils, allowing foundries to create start-up industries and jobs focused on production and marketing of spent foundry sand soil blend materials to the public.

Want to Know More?

W-2170 was supported, in part, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture by the Multistate Research Fund established in 1998 by the Agricultural Research,  Extension, and Education Reform Act (an amendment to the Hatch Act of 1888) to encourage and enhance multistate, multidisciplinary research on critical issues that have a  national or regional priority. For more information, visit http://waaesd.org

Download or print full Impact Statement

Participating Institutions

University of California, Riverside
Colorado State University
Cornell University
University of Delaware
Delaware State University
University of Florida
University of Hawaii
Kansas State University
University of Massachusetts
Michigan State University
University of Minnesota
New Mexico State University
Ohio State University
Oklahoma State University
Pennsylvania State University
Purdue University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and
State University
University of Washington
Washington State University
Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada
Metropolitan Water Reclamation
District of Greater Chicago
Texas AgriLife Research
U.S.Environmental Protection Agency

 

Nutrient Bioavailibility (W-2002, 2008-2013)

Diet and Disease

The food you eat can improve your health and reduce your risk for many diseases and disorders—like cancer, heart disease, obesity, poor bone health, birth  defects, and neurological diseases. Although these diseases can often be treated with drugs and surgical procedures, harnessing the preventative effects of  nutrients naturally found in food is a desirable alternative. Scientists, health officials, food and drug manufacturers, and consumers need to pinpoint which nutrients prevent diseases and just how much of these nutrients should be consumed. This is especially important information to have as more and more  Americans take dietary supplements and eat foods fortified with nutrients. In order to maximize the health benefits of nutrients, researchers also need to  determine factors that affect how  nutrients are absorbed and metabolized in the body—in other words, their bioavailability.

Multistate Research Feeds Changes that Benefit Health & Economy

Since 2008, Multistate Research Project W-2002 has helped scientists coordinate pioneering research about nutrients that affect human wellbeing.  Participating scientists have developed new techniques and tools that have advanced research capabilities. Their discoveries have inspired new, nutrition-based approaches to preventing diseases. These approaches are easy, low-cost alternatives to drug therapies and surgery. W-2002 researchers have   also made it possible to develop health screenings that identify nutrient-deficient and at-risk individuals. Screenings enable individuals to take preventative  action sooner, which can stave off serious illness and reduce future health care costs.

Farmers are using W-2002 research findings to grow more nutritious  crops, and food manufacturers are developing new health food products. These actions ensure a supply of desirable, healthy food for consumers and give  producers new opportunities for income.

Research insights have led to daily intake recommendations and have encouraged more detailed food labels and  accurate health statements. As a result, Americans have better access to the information they need to make healthy diet choices. W-2002 research has even  influenced legislation, including mandates for iodized salt in Ethiopia that will improve the health of rural women and infants.

Researchers Discover Dietary Interventions for Diseases

Over the last five years, W-2002 researchers have engaged in a wide range of groundbreaking studies. These studies identified specific vitamins, minerals, and enzymes from food that can assist or prevent chemical reactions in the body, bind to toxins and prevent them from being absorbed in the body, reduce  inflammation, enhance digestion, and protect against infection. Here is a breakdown of W-2002 studies and findings:

W2002_HeartDiseaseHeart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.

  • Washington State University:  flavonoids in ginkgo leaves and extracts can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • University of Connecticut: compounds in green tea and berries can regulate the removal of bad cholesterol from the body and enhance the body’s defense against inflammation.
  • University of Arizona & Kansas State University: copper deficiency can enlarge the heart and deteriorate heart muscle function.
  • The Ohio State University: vitamin E protected against blood vessel dysfunction that is caused by high blood sugar.
  • Oregon State University: vegetable sources of nitrate and nitrite are associated with lower mortality and sickness due to heart diseases

Cancer

W2002_CancerCancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in the U.S. with half of all Americans diagnosed in their lifetime.

  • University of Arizona & Oregon State University: sulforaphane, a chemical found in cruciferous vegetables, leads to prostate cancer cell death.
  • Washington  State University: flavonoids in ginkgo leaves and extracts can reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Colorado State University: purple potatoes have greater anti-cancer properties than white/yellow potatoes. Baking retained more anti-cancer properties than chipping.
  • Michigan State University: low doses of nitrite can inhibit early stage colon cancer cell progression, but higher doses may promote cancer cell progression in  later stages.
  • University of Illinois: compounds in legumes, oilseeds, and vegetables can prevent genetic mutations and reduce cancer risk.
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln: biotin decreases breast cancer risk and spread of tumors.
  • University of California, Berkeley: folate may exacerbate vitamin B12 deficiency.

Obesity

W2002_Obesity>66% of Americans are overweight or obese. Biological changes associated with obesity, such as inflammation, further impair health.

  • The Ohio State University: green tea extract prevented nonalcoholic fatty liver disease when included in the diets of obese rats and mice.
  • Oklahoma State University: bitter melon can regulate fatness, cholesterol, and glucose in mice.
  • Oklahoma State University: compounds in mango can reduce body fat accumulation in mice fed high-fat diets.
  • Montana State University:  a new variety of pea can be used for low-starch flour and food products. (High intake of starches is a leading cause of obesity  and heart disease.)
  • University of Arizona: insufficient sleep altered nutrient metabolism in rats, increasing risk for bacterial infection and promoting weight gain. Obese rodents were more sensitive to the effects of insufficient sleep than leaner rats.
  • University of Arizona: daily doses of vegetables modulated inflammation and other health problems in overweight women.

W2002_CognitiveDiesaseCognitive Diseases

  • Oklahoma State University: primary school children in Ethiopia who consumed meat, poultry, fish, and/or eggs got higher scores on cognitive tests.
  • Oklahoma State University: women in rural communities of southern Ethiopia do not consume iodized salt, and iodine concentrations are low enough to be public health problem. (Iodine is important for brain development during pregnancy and infancy.)
  • Oklahoma State University: zinc deficiency is linked to impaired cognition in women and infants.

W2002_BoneDiseaseBone Disease

Bone diseases are estimated to affect ~14 million people >50 years old in the U.S. by 2020.

  • Purdue University: out of several botanical supplements, only soy suppressed bone breakdown.
  • Oklahoma State University: chemicals in green tea suppress bone erosion, enhance bone formation, and increase bone volume in female rats.
  • Oklahoma State University: dried plum can mitigate bone damage.
  • Oklahoma State University: rural women in Ethiopia do not consume vitamin D-rich foods, and 15% of women were at risk of deficiency.
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln: humans absorb microRNAs from milk in large quantities, some of which promote bone formation.
  • Purdue University: different sources of calcium affect bone health differently. Bones of rats fed non-fat dry milk solids were longer, wider, and denser than  rats fed calcium carbonate.

W2002_spinachAge-Related Diseases

  • University of California, Davis: lutein and zeaxanthin found in green leafy vegetables and eggs reduce risk of agerelated macular degeneration, the most  common cause of irreversible blindness in elderly Americans.
  • Oregon State University: zinc supplementation in older animals inhibits agerelated immune defects and inflammation.
  • University of Connecticut: quantity and quality of dietary fat affects the absorption and metabolism of nutrients that can reduce risk of age-related chronic  diseases.

Birth Defects

Birth Defects are diagnosed in 30 per 100,000 live births in the U.S.

  • University of California, Berkeley: common variants in human genes related to folate metabolism can influence the risk of birth defects.
  • Oregon State University: low dietary zinc causes developmental abnormalities and increases susceptibility to environmental agents that can cause birth  defects.
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln: dietary biotin and folate can decrease risk for birth defects.

W2002_nanoencapsulationNanotechnology

  • University of Massachusetts: a wide variety of foods can be turned into nanoemulsions, microemulsions, and nanolaminated droplets that can be used to  control the delivery and release of nutrients in the body.

Consumer Behavior

  • Colorado State University: consumers are more willing to pay higher premium for purple potato products if they are educated on the health  benefits.
  • University of Illinois: knowledge alone is not effective in changing eating behavior; interactive education is important.

Want to know more?

Download the printable PDF!

Administrative Advisor: Tammy M. Bray (tammy.bray@oregonstate.edu)

The W-2002 project was supported, in part, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture by the Multistate Research Fund established in  1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (an amendment to the Hatch Act of 1888) to encourage and enhance multistate, multidisciplinary research on critical issues that have a national or regional priority. Additional funds were provided by contracts and grants to  participating scientists. For more information, visit http://www.waaesd.org/.

Microirrigation for Sustainable Water Use (W-2128, 2009-2014)

Irrigation Strains Western Water Supplies

In microirrigation systems, water  evaporation is kept to a minimum because water is delivered to the soil near the plant’s roots, not sprayed into the air or over large, exposed areas. Water is supplied from a main line to separate smaller tubes that run along each row of plants. These tubes emit water at a very slow rate near the base of each plant. Computers and timers allow farmers to fine-tune the watering. Top photo by Ryo Chijiiwa, Flickr. Bottom photo by Freddie Lamm/KSU.

In microirrigation systems, water evaporation is kept to a minimum because water is  delivered to the soil near the plant’s roots, not sprayed into the air or over large, exposed  areas. Water is supplied from a main line to separate smaller tubes that run along each  row of plants. These tubes emit water at a  very slow rate near the base of each plant.  Computers and timers allow farmers to fine-tune the watering. Top photo by Ryo  Chijiiwa, Flickr. Bottom photo by Freddie  Lamm/KSU.

The West is home to some of the fastest growing communities in the nation, and these growing communities are putting additional strain on already  overdrawn water supplies in the region. A major user of Western water is irrigated farmland needed to feed a growing world population. Adequate  irrigation is necessary for good crop yields and quality, particularly in semi-arid and arid regions, but excessive irrigation can damage crops, and excess  ater can carry pollutants like chemicals and sediment into surface and groundwater. Conventional irrigation systems that apply high volumes of  ater over wide areas can lose a lot of water through runoff, wind, or evaporation, and they often over or under-water plants. A more efficient option— microirrigation—delivers small quantities of water as needed above or below the soil surface to plants through emitters spaced along a water line.  Microirrigation (MI) systems could help farmers reduce their draws on water supplies, but perceptions of high cost, poor reliability, tedious maintenance,  and lack of support or guidance have made farmers hesitant to adopt the technology. Without information or recommendations for their particular farm  conditions and crops, farmers have also struggled  with irrigation scheduling, or determining when and how much water to apply, which is crucial for  maximum water savings.

Multistate Research Project Makes Microirrigation More Sustainable, Saves Water & Money

In 1972, researchers formed Multistate Research Project W-2128 to coordinate MI research across the U.S. Over the last five years, the group has made  remarkable improvements to MI systems that have had huge environmental, economic, and societal impacts.

Improved Design: Recent research has influenced MI system design and manufacturing, leading to equipment that is easier to install, more durable, and more precise. These improvements have reduced the frequency and severity of MI system failures, cutting maintenance costs and ensuring reliable irrigation for crops.

Educated Farmers, Increased MI Use: Engaging with growers, W-2128 members have made certain that new MI technologies are appropriate for  varying crops, soils, climates, and farmer needs and skills. Such extensive and robust outreach efforts have countered the perception that MI is  difficult. In turn, more farmers—even farmers of lower-value crops—have increased adoption and successful use of MI.

Saving Water Saves Money: Farmers who have adopted the tools and methods tested and recommended by W-2128 have saved water and money. Cost  savings have come largely from using improved MI systems to deliver just the right amount of water at just the right time. For example, Idaho farmers have saved 10% or more on labor and water pumping costs by following recommendations to measure soil water levels daily at multiple depths to know  hen soils are dry. W-2128 technology and tips were also critical in mitigating Texas’ record-breaking drought in 2011. Farmers have seen additional cost savings by using these tools and methods to delay the start of irrigation, saving water for later in the season.

More Water for More Farmers: By conserving water, newly adopted tools and practices have made it possible to irrigate additional land—particularly  land not suitable for other irrigation technology. For example, MI systems could help farmers in Puerto Rico grow taro in dry conditions. This ability  would allow farmers to establish taro on a commercial scale and replace imports and boost the economy. W-2128 research and extension efforts have  also helped under-served clientele—like small-acreage farmers and low-input producers—take advantage of MI.

Improved Crop Yields & Quality: Farmers have seen improved crop yield and quality. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, drip irrigation has been very beneficial  or the farming community and has produced marketable vegetables in a variety of trials, including lettuce, kale, and watermelon varieties.  Furthermore, improved sensors help farmer detect irrigation problems early and correct them quickly, cutting costs due to crop losses. Red

Reduced Pollution & Health Risks: Adoption of MI technologies promoted by W-2128 has reduced risk of negative environmental and water quality  effects. Applying agrochemicals precisely with MI has reduced the amount of agrochemicals that leach into groundwater or runoff into streams and  lakes, limiting human exposure. For example, better use of irrigation systems and irrigation criteria in Oregon has increased onion yields and  decreased groundwater nitrate contamination.

Using Non-Potable Water Conserves Freshwater: Research and extension have promoted the use of non-potable water resources in MI systems, saving  freshwater for higher-value domestic and industrial uses. For example, W-2128 has adapted MI technologies to use recycled waters from confined  animal feeding operations.

Restored Land: Researchers have also shown that MI is a viable strategy for establishing and maintaining trees, shrubs, and grasses on disturbed lands sites, including uranium mill sites on the Navajo Nation and former petroleum refineries. Replanting these sites reduces erosion and airborne dust,  limiting threats to environmental and human health.

Research & Extension Highlights

NMSU researchers determined that hybrid poplar trees are well-adapted to MI in the Four Corners region. These trees are being planted to remediate an abandoned oil refinery site. Photo by Mick O’Neill/NMSU.

NMSU researchers determined that hybrid poplar trees
are well-adapted to MI in the Four Corners region. These
trees are being planted to remediate an abandoned oil
refinery site. Photo by Mick O’Neill/NMSU.

Researchers have also shown that MI is a viable strategy for establishing and maintaining trees, shrubs, and grasses on disturbed lands sites, including  uranium mill sites on the Navajo Nation and former petroleum refineries. Replanting these sites reduces erosion and airborne dust, limiting threats to  environmental and human health.

  • University of Idaho: demonstrated better crop yields with microirrigation than center pivot irrigation (32 tons per acre versus 28 tons per acre).
  • New Mexico State University (NMSU): tested and compared several models of drip tubing and emitters that can be used for inexpensive, low pressure microirrigation suitable for small farms; determined how much to adjust irrigation timing and amount based on climate and plant canopy factors; determined irrigation scheduling for drought-tolerant landscape plants and vegetable crops; developed a model of how soil temperature and moisture affect the life cycle of Phytophthora capsici and how the disease develops on chile and  bell peppers; showed that shifting from furrow irrigation to drip irrigation can lower water inputs and the amount of nitrogen compounds that leach into the  environment; tested and recommended the 2D model for scheduling MI for shallow-rooted crops to decrease pollution of groundwater; initiated a phytoremediation project using MI to establish tree and shrub species at the former site of a petroleum refinery; and showed that gravity-fed drip irrigation can be a viable strategy for establishing plantings in remote areas such as the sites of former uranium mills on  the Navajo Nation.
  • University of California, Davis: designed a new tensiometer to monitor soil water potential below the root zone in real-time, 24/7; developed new wireless data logging systems for perennial crops so that growers do not have to remove or disconnect sensors,  wires, or data loggers during yearly harvests.
  • USDA-ARS: designed infrared thermometers, which can be used to measure plant canopy temperature in real-time and developed irrigation  scheduling strategies based on these temperatures.
  • Iowa State University: showed that using fewer sensors can still provide cost effective, detailed maps of soil moisture content if the sensors are placed strategically.
  • Oregon State University: calibrated soil water sensors to improve the precision of irrigation scheduling.
  • Cornell University: measured evapotranspiration rates for apples and grapes in cool, humid climates and used this data to create an automated online  system that New York growers can use to optimize irrigation.
  • Texas AgriLife Research: developed engineering guidelines for permanently installed MI systems that function well in the cracking, heavy clay loam  soil of the Texas High Plains.
  • Kansas State University: identified key barriers to increasing MI adoption, including rodent damage and perceived performance uncertainties.  More  Water for More Farmers Improved Crop Yields & Quality Reduced Pollution & Health Risks Using Non-Potable Water Conserves Freshwater Restored  Land;  identified key barriers to increasing MI adoption, including rodent damage and perceived performance uncertainties.
  • University of Arizona: promoted using smartphone technology to help farmers, extension specialists, and scientists communicate, share data, and make good MI decisions in real time without traveling long distances; and promoted using smartphone technology to help farmers, extension specialists, and scientists communicate, share data, and  make  good MI decisions in real time without traveling long distances.
  • Colorado State University: high salinity groundwater can be used in MI systems to grow muskmelons without excessive harm to the crop or soil.
  • W-2128 joint efforts: developed guidelines for MI systems that irrigate with low quality water, including recommendations for using waters from human sources. W-2128 shared research findings and recommendations with a variety of audiences via outreach and extension activities. W-2128 members held 145 outreach events with growers each year since 2009. In addition, they coordinated and presented technical sessions on MI scheduling at the  2009, 2012, and 2013 technical conference of the Irrigation Association. They also created websites to share guidelines and software and published  numerous books and articles.

Want to know more?

Helpful websites:

http://www.cropinfo.net/MI/
http://micromaintain.ucanr.edu
http://www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/irrigation/

Download the printable PDF!

Institutions from the following states contributed data on specific crops: AL (cotton, corn soybean, wheat), CA (almond, pecan, grape), FL (citrus,  blueberry, strawberry), GA (cotton, corn, peanut), HI (sweet corn, vegetables), ID (turf, alfalfa, sugar beets), KS (corn, grain sorghum, sunflower,  alfalfa, soybean), NM (pecan, poplar, tomato, onion, pepper, squash), NY (apple, grape), OR (onion, poplar, potato), Puerto Rico (citrus, avocado), TX  (corn, cotton, sorghum, soybean).

The W-2128 project was supported, in part, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture by the Multistate Research Fund established in  1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (an amendment to the Hatch Act of 1888) to encourage and enhanced multistate, multidisciplinary research on critical issues that have a national or regional priority. Additional funds were provided by contracts and grants to participating scientists. For more information, visit http://www.waaesd.org/.

Motivating Calcium Intake in Children (W-2003, 2008-2013)

USDA Snap-Ed photo.

USDA Snap-Ed photo.

Poor Bone Health Linked to Low Calcium Intake Among Adolescents

Osteoporosis, or thinning bones, is responsible for over 1.5 million fractures each year. More than half of all Americans  over 50 years of age experience osteoporosis-related bone fractures, which can lead to long-term pain and impaired mobility. Health care costs associated with these fractures exceed $20 billion every year.

Consuming calcium during adolescence—when the body is most able to absorb and retain calcium—helps build up bone mass and  density, ensuring strong, healthy bones later in life. However, calcium consumption among adolescents nationwide is less than desirable. Girls and  boys ages 9 to 18 consume only 60% to 80% of the recommended 1,300 milligrams (roughly three servings from the milk, yogurt, and cheese food group) per day.

Among adolescents, milk is increasingly replaced with soda, juices, and sports drinks. Some adolescents, particularly girls, may limit—or eliminate—milk in their diets because of the perception that dairy products are fattening. Family factors in, too. Parents’ knowledge about nutrition, parents’ consumption of milk, and availability of calcium-rich foods in the home also play a large role in how much calcium youth consume. Because eating habits formed early in life often continue throughout adulthood, programs intended to boost calcium intake must engage parents.

Multistate Research Project Motivates Parents and Kids to Consume Calcium

For the past five years, scientists have worked together on Multistate Research Project W-2003, conducting studies about the specific factors that  influence calcium intake among children. With the data they have collected so far, researchers are designing messages, materials, and programs that motivate parents to boost the amount of calcium-rich foods and drinks their children consume. These materials and programs equip parents with the knowledge and inspiration to provide access to healthy, calcium-rich foods and to encourage and role model consuming them. Teaching children to
consume calcium-rich foods at an early age will reduce their risk of costly and painful bone diseases later in life. Indeed, many of the messages and materials developed by W-2003 are tailored for groups that are most at risk of osteoporosis—women and families with Asian or Hispanic heritage. W-2003 researchers are also developing new techniques and tools for sharing these messages, so that they reach more parents and promote healthy families across the U.S.

Calcium-rich foods and drinks include cheese, tofu (and other soybean products), dark leaft greens like spinach, milk, and fortified orange juice.

Calcium-rich foods and drinks include cheese, tofu (and other soybean products), dark leafy greens like spinach, milk, and fortified orange juice.

A Closer Look

These posters designed by W-2003 use specific phrase and images to motivate Asian and Hispanic parents to provide calcium-rich foods and drinks for their children and to encourage parenting practices like eating together and role-modeling good eating habits.

These posters designed by W-2003 use specific phrase and images to motivate Asian and Hispanic parents to provide calcium-rich foods and drinks for their children and to encourage parenting practices like eating together and role-modeling good eating habits.

To understand what keeps parents from encouraging children to consume calcium-rich foods and what would motivate them to encourage this  behavior, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 200 parents of Asian, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white adolescents in 12 states and  distributed questionnaires to 600 parents and children across eight states. Researchers also gathered data from focus group discussions.

After  analyzing the data, researchers found several factors that influenced calcium intake among adolescents and their parents. School, TV, and family  members strongly influenced children’s food choices. Parents who provided and drank milk regularly had greater knowledge of the health benefits of  calcium, and their children consumed more calcium. These parents also tended to show stronger traditional and cultural values and reported eating family dinners together every night.

Data also pinpointed barriers to calcium consumption, including children’s dislike of calcium-rich foods and preference for other beverages instead of milk. Parents who did not provide or drink milk regularly tended to have little time to be concerned about  their children’s diets or make balanced meals in addition to limited financial resources and little access to calcium-rich foods. Other barriers included traditional cultural food patterns that do not include many or any dairy products.

Using this data, researchers worked with a marketing group to  develop messages targeted at different parenting practices. They crafted two sets of messages—one fact-based and one emotion-based—intended to  motivate parents to promote calcium consumption in their families. Marketing and graphic design experts at Washington State University and The  Ohio State University created posters with these tag lines and accompanying graphics. After revising the posters based on initial feedback from  parents, researchers initiated a survey of a larger group of Asian and Hispanic parents to gauge the effectiveness of the motivational messages.

Want to know more?

Download the printable PDF!

Participating Institutions & Researchers:
University of Arizona, Scottie Misner, Nobuko Kay Hongu
*University of Arkansas, Latha Devareddy
Brigham Young University, Rickelle Richards, Paul Johnston
University of California, Davis, Christine Bruhn
University of Hawaii, Jinan Banna, Corilee Watters
University of Minnesota, Marla Reicks
*North Carolina State University, Suzie Goodell
Ohio State University, Carolyn Gunther
Oregon State University, Mary Cluskey, Deborah Maddy (Administrative Advisor)
*Purdue University, Carol J. Boushey
Utah Cooperative Extension, Siew Sun Wong (now at Oregon State University)
*Washington State University, Miriam Edlefsen
*No longer a member of the W-2003 team

 

The W-2003 project was supported, in part, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture by the Multistate Research Fund established in 1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (an amendment to the Hatch Act of 1888) to encourage and enhance  multistate, multidisciplinary research on critical issues that have a national or regional priority. Additional funds were provided by contracts and  grants to participating scientists. For more information, visit http://www.waaesd.org/.

Volunteer Precipitation Monitoring (WERA-1012, 2008-2013)

Precipitation Data in Demand

With the right training and easy-to-use, reliable equipment, everyday citizens of all ages can become volunteer precipitation observers. Photo by Hentry Reges.

With the right training and easy-to-use, reliable equipment, everyday citizens of all ages can become volunteer precipitation observers. Photo by Hentry Reges.

Recent widespread droughts and severe floods in the U.S. are reminders that fluctuations—especially extremes—in precipitation seriously impact the environment and society. For almost 125 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has monitored precipitation types and amounts, making it possible to prepare for variability and extremes. Using real-time and historic precipitation data, city planners and civil engineers can design better sewers, roofs, and other infrastructure; farmers can adapt growing practices; and water providers can ensure steady supplies for agricultural, industrial, and municipal uses. Understanding precipitation allows everyday citizens to go about their daily lives comfortably and safely.

Over the years, satellites and ground RADAR have become popular because they can detect precipitation without physically being in an area. Though these systems can estimate the intensity and motion of precipitation, on-the-ground measurements are still needed to calibrate the equipment and confirm precipitation type and accumulation. Collecting on-the-ground data all across the country takes a lot of rain gauges and a lot of manpower. To cover more ground and gather more data, some programs have enlisted volunteers to record observations with simple, plastic rain gauges often used right in their backyards.

Simple rain gauges like the one below used by CoCoRaHS volunteers can be set up in diverse locations to measure precipitation amounts in different areas. Photo by Henry Reges.

Simple rain gauges like the one below used by CoCoRaHS volunteers can be set up in diverse locations to measure precipitation amounts in different areas. Photo by Henry Reges.

As federal budgets for climate monitoring flatline, there is a new push to make the most of these low-tech, low-cost volunteer networks. But counting on volunteers to collect precipitation data comes with concerns. Recruiting volunteers can be tricky, leaving some areas with no volunteers—and no precipitation data. Volunteers also need training and coordination to ensure they use sound methods and adhere to the same quality control standards.

Multistate Research Project Makes a Difference

Since 2008, members of the WERA-1012 multistate research and extension project have conducted research and outreach to support volunteer precipitation observation networks. The group’s efforts have raised awareness about the value of precipitation data collected by volunteer networks, boosting involvement and strengthening long-term support. The number of volunteer weather observers has jumped to over 20,000, producing a rich data source.  Greater involvement in these programs has enhanced science literacy in the U.S., especially among students who gain real-world experience collecting and analyzing data.

Emphasizing low-cost ways to mobilize volunteers and collect data, WERA- 1012’s work has turned volunteer networks into an economically sustainable resource for national weather monitoring. Researchers have also shed light on how to train and coordinate volunteers, making volunteer observations more reliable. Furthermore, the WERA-1012 committee has standardized the tools and protocols used by volunteers, making it easier to combine data from different volunteer networks. This has resulted in the most extensive national precipitation monitoring network in U.S. history.

Accurate, real-time data at the local scale has made it possible to:

  • issue warnings, giving the public time to reach safety in floods, winter storms, and other severe weather events;
  • supply enough water for municipal, agricultural, and industrial uses;
  • irrigate crops more efficiently so that water isn’t wasted and crops stay healthy;
  • administer federal crop insurance and reduce fraud, saving farmers and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars;
  • calibrate RADAR and satellites.

Collaborative Research & Extension

Provides Coordination, Training & Tools

As a multistate project, WERA-1012 has brought together scientists with diverse expertise from institutions across the U.S. Their efficiency and dedication have spurred many advances in volunteer precipition observation networks. Photo by Henry Reges.

As a multistate project, WERA-1012 has brought together scientists with diverse expertise from institutions across the U.S. Their efficiency and dedication have spurred many advances in volunteer precipition observation networks. Photo by Henry Reges.

Over the years, WERA-1012 coordination fostered open interaction between the National Weather Service, the National Climatic Data Center, universities, and other organizations that use climate data. Working together, these organizations addressed critical observational and funding issues and identified specific strategies that sustain effective volunteer networks. Based on this work, existing volunteer networks like the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program and the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) picked up new tactics to recruit volunteeers, such as partnerships with school science programs, media announcements, and recruitment blitzes. Over 1,200 new volunteers joined CoCoRaHS during the “March Madness” program in 2013. The WERA-1012 committee also focused on engaging minority populations and volunteers in specially targeted areas.

CoCoRaHS volunteers record their precipipation measurements in an online database. Once in the system, the data can be displayed as maps like the one above, which shows new snow accumulation over one day. Screenshot from http://www.cocorahs.org/Maps/.

CoCoRaHS volunteers record their precipipation measurements in an online database. Once in the system, the data can be displayed as maps like the one above, which shows new snow accumulation over one day. Screenshot from http://www.cocorahs.org/Maps/.

To help volunteers take accurate measurements, researchers compared rain gauges for ease-of-use, durability, and reliability and set guidelines for placing gauges where they will not be damaged. The committee also coordinated the distribution of “ETgages,” enabling the CoCoRaHS volunteers in 34 states to measure evapotranspiration.

To bring volunteer observations in line with regional, national, and international quality standards, the committee developed new protocols for volunteer networks. WERA-1012 working groups also helped regional and national agencies refine their observation guidelines. For example, project members enabled a special Snow Data workshop for FEMA that firmed up their policies on verifying snow disaster declarations across the country.

In addition, the committee developed better training materials, including a series of videos available for download from the CoCoRaHS website, some of which use animation to illustrate cumbersome procedures and potential observation scenarios. Project members also participated in monthly WxTalk Webinars. About 175 people joined each of the 25 talks to date, all of which are archived on the CoCoRaHS YouTube channel.

To combat data entry errors, project members teamed up with the Midwest Regional Climate Center and developed a system that allows volunteer network coordinators to flag suspicious values and track how they are resolved. Six states (Illinois, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Wyoming) already rolled out the system. The committee also began sending “Quality Control Tips of the Week” to the CoCoRaHS network. Other committee members suggested ways to eliminate some data entry errors by improving the user interface for the CoCoRaHS website.

Want to know more?

National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/coop/what-is-coop.html

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network: http://www.cocorahs.org/

The WERA-1012 project was supported, in part, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture by the Multistate Research Fund (MRF) established in 1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (an amendment to the Hatch Act of 1888) to encourage and enhance multistate, multidisciplinary research on critical issues that have a national or regional priority. Additional funds were provided by contracts and grants to participating scientists. For more information, visit http://www.waaesd.org/.

Participating Land-grant Institutions: University of Arizona, Colorado State University, University of Illinois, Kansas Cooperative Extension, Louisiana State University, University of Missouri, New Mexico State University, University of Nebraska, Rutgers, North Carolina State University, North Dakota State University, Oregon State University, Prairie View A&M University, South Dakota State University, Texas A&M University, Utah State University, University of Wyoming.

Other Participating Institutions: Florida State University, NOAA, BLM, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire, University of Oklahoma, Arkansas Natural Resource Commission, Arizona State University.

Download Printable PDF

Monitoring Rangelands

WERA-040 (2007-2012): This project has provided tools that help landowners and land managers assess the ecological status of rangelands and make management decisions that support the sustainability of healthy rangelands.

Rangelands include grasslands, shrub lands, deserts, alpine communities, marshes, and other ecosystems, including the juniper-dominated landscape above. WERA-040 researchers have standardized specific descriptions of the various ecological sites that occur on rangelands, making it is easier to evaluate rangeland health. Photo by Mike Borman, Oregon State University.

Rangelands include grasslands, shrub lands, deserts, alpine communities, marshes, and other ecosystems, including the juniper-dominated landscape above. WERA-040 researchers have standardized specific descriptions of the various ecological sites that occur on rangelands, making it is easier to evaluate rangeland health. Photo by Mike Borman, Oregon State University.

Who cares and why?

Rangelands in the western U.S. form a vast and varied landscape that provides important habitat for wildlife, grazing land for economically-important livestock, and recreational opportunities. Ecological processes that occur on rangelands generate clean water to drink and air to breathe. Periodically assessing the general ecological health of rangelands is key to supporting the long-term sustainability of rangelands. Since 1974, the USDA has been charged with conducting a “comprehensive assessment of present and anticipated uses, demand for, and supply of renewable resources from the nation’s public and private forests and rangelands.” The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) conducts a similar inventory of private rangelands across the nation. However, interpreting rangeland conditions has always been controversial, especially when debates over public policy and resource allocation occur. Furthermore, collating assessments of private lands with those from various public land units into a cohesive national report has been difficult because different agencies have used different criteria. A single, unified method for assessing rangeland condition is clearly needed, but identifying a method that accurately measures rangeland health across a broad spectrum of climate, geology, soil types, and ownership patterns is complicated.

WERA-040 research and outreach has helped rangelands professionals sharpen their skills for identifying ecological sites on rangelands. Photo by Bobbie Davis, NRCS.

WERA-040 research and outreach has helped rangelands professionals sharpen their skills for identifying ecological sites on rangelands. Photo by Bobbie Davis, NRCS.

What has the project done so far?

During the past five years of the WERA-040 project, participating scientists have developed new science-based approaches and models for assessing, monitoring, and managing rangelands. In particular, researchers have formulated and standardized detailed descriptors for various ecological processes and features that are being assessed. They have also designed models that track and forecast rangeland conditions given different potential land use or management options. Another focus has been developing methods for determining whether or not ecological processes are working properly within various rangeland ecosystems. These tools have been designed to work for many different agencies, in all types of rangeland ecosystems, and for rangelands in all states of health. Data collected by WERA-040 researchers have been used to set thresholds for ecological processes and features and recommend specific management options. WERA-040 researchers and Extension professionals have hosted successful symposia and published many papers to share the latest information and technology among various conservation organizations, state and federal land managers, legislative authorities, the agriculture industry, and private landowners.

Knowing what types of ecological sites are present on rangelands helps guide management practices and helps land managers recognize threats and damage to these ecosystems. Photo by Mike Stirling, NRCS.

Knowing what types of ecological sites are present on rangelands helps guide management practices and helps land managers recognize threats and damage to these ecosystems. Photo by Mike Stirling, NRCS.

Impact Statements:

  • Helped private landowners and public land managers make informed decisions by improving means of assessing rangeland resources and making monitoring data more readily available.
  • Increased adoption of monitoring guidelines in western states, helping land managers spot degrading conditions before they become too serious.
  • Protected the sustainability of western rangelands by developing models that can be used across the western U.S. to design more adaptive management plans.
  • Raised awareness about possible restoration options for rangelands of all conditions.
  • Provided detailed information on the status and sustainability of natural resources that rural communities rely on for economic progress. For example, increased implementation of rotational grazing practices in North Dakota has generated about one million dollars per year for North Dakota producers.

What research is needed?

One focus for future research is understanding how vegetation treatments affect the movement, distribution, and quality of water resources on different ecological sites. Researchers also need to verify the models and ecological site descriptions used to predict transitions between vegetative states.

Want to know more?

Administrative Advisor: Bret Hess

This project was supported, in part, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture by the Multistate Research Fund (MRF) established in 1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (an amendment to the Hatch Act of 1888) to encourage and enhance multistate, multidisciplinary research on critical issues that have a national or regional priority. Additional funds were provided by contracts and grants to participating scientists. For more information, visit http://www.waaesd.org/.