Olivia McClure | 11/15/2016 5:08:45 PM
(11/15/16) BOSSIER CITY, La. – The LSU AgCenter team of water experts at the Red River Research Station is studying how farmers in northern Caddo Parish may benefit from implementing management practices promoted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
A partnership between the AgCenter and the NRCS, the Shiftail Canal Watershed Project is focusing on how NRCS-recommended practices affect soil health and water quality and quantity. Those practices include using soil moisture sensors, planting cover crops to improve soil fertility and installing filter strips to stop irrigation water and nutrients from running off fields.
The four-year, $500,000 project includes about $90,000 for the AgCenter and about $260,000 in incentives for farmers who adopt NRCS practices. Several agriculture companies are also participating by providing discounts on supplies needed to implement the NRCS recommendations.
AgCenter economist Naveen Adusumilli said the project offers a chance to collect and analyze much-needed data on the management practices.
“All these practices come with a cost,” Adusumilli said. “There are up-front costs, management costs and maintenance costs as well if you’re talking about irrigation equipment. We will look at all that information and document these over a period of three years. That should provide a good database for farmers and groups in other regions that want to do something similar but want to know what it costs up front.”
Farmers can implement any of a number of practices to receive financial assistance from the NRCS. Because farmers get to choose how they want to address their soil or water concerns, the AgCenter will be able to examine the effectiveness of a variety of strategies, Adusumilli said.
Irrigation has been on the rise in the Red Bayou watershed, which is north of the Shiftail Canal watershed, he said. Some of the water that runs off cropland in the Red Bayou watershed reaches bayous in the Shiftail Canal watershed, including Dooley Bayou.
The project goal is help farmers implement management practices that address water quality issues in Dooley Bayou and throughout the watershed, Adusumilli said.
Unlike row crop farmers in northeast Louisiana who rely on groundwater to irrigate, those in northwestern parishes have a more complex array of options.
“The northwest region has the Red River, which is in very close proximity to these crop production acres,” Adusumilli said. “So there is that alternate choice of not just groundwater, but we have surface water accessibility here. That being said, we also have fluctuating water quality issues, and some of these practices can help protect water quality.”
Meetings are being held with area farmers so they can get involved in the project.
AgCenter personnel working with Adusumilli are irrigation engineer Stacia Davis, agronomist Syam Dodla and water quality specialist Changyoon Jeong.
LSU AgCenter and Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel tour the Shiftail Canal watershed in Caddo Parish in May 2015. Photo by Naveen Adusumilli