Water quality research focuses on best management practices

Linda Benedict, Bogren, Richard C.  |  4/5/2005 1:15:03 AM

Watersheds are increasingly becoming the primary planning unit for natural resource management. Louisiana uses a set of 475 sub-segment watersheds in 12 river basins as a framework for surface water quality assessment. The Plaquemine-Brule watershed is a sub-segment of the Mermentau River drainage basin.

Rick Bogren

LSU AgCenter research teams are evaluating water quality in the Cole Gully area on the Bayou Plaquemine-Brule in Acadia Parish and in Bayou Wikoff north of Lafayette. Each study area comprises a watershed identified and selected by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

“We’ll look at different management practices and determine which are most effective and least burdensome,” said Lewis Gaston, associate professor in the Department of Agronomy. “It’s an implementation demonstration project.”

Gaston said that cooperating farmers implement pre-determined best management practices (BMPs) designed to improve water quality. Then the researchers intercept water coming off designated fields and measure the amounts of sediment, nutrients and other pollutants in the water.

Magdi Selim, professor in the Department of Agronomy, said the researchers want to quantify how to manage sediment losses and agricultural chemical losses reaching water bodies.

The researchers are installing sampling stations between the edges of each field and the bayous.

“We want to look at the edge of the field and see what comes out,” Selim said, explaining they expect to see reductions in sediments, nutrients and dissolved carbon in fields where best management practices have been implemented.

In another project, AgCenter researchers monitor water discharges from crawfish ponds as well as water in streams, bayous or canals to compare the pond water with normal surface water.

Robert Romaire, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Aquaculture Research Station in Baton Rouge, said the project is evaluating three crawfish ponds on the Bayou Plaquemine-Brule watershed. The researchers are looking at different sets of BMPs to evaluate their effect on water discharged from the ponds.

“Ponds are managed to mimic nature,” Romaire said, explaining how crawfish farmers empty the ponds in the spring to force the crawfish into burrows to lay eggs. Then, after a summer of growing vegetation that will be food for the crawfish, farmers fill the ponds to bring the crawfish out of their burrows in the fall. AgCenter researchers will use the study results to evaluate current BMPs and recommend modifications, if necessary.

Rick Bogren is a professor in LSU AgCenter Communications, Baton Rouge, La.
(This article appears in the spring 2004 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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