Researchers Directing Nutrient Loss Reduction Project in NE Arkansas
JONESBORO — The Arkansas Department of Agriculture announced approval of $1.7 million in funding to implement nutrient reduction-related projects that support the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force’s program.
The Department’s Natural Resources Division has partnered with Arkansas State University, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and local drainage districts in Northeast Arkansas to restructure channelized ditches to allow for more natural assimilation of nutrients.
Dr. Jennifer Bouldin, interim dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, professor of environmental biology, and director of the Ecotoxicology Research Facility, is the principal investigator (PI) for the project. Orithea Regn, a research associate in the Ecotoxicology Research Facility, is co-PI.
The Task Force’s program’s goal is to assist states in implementing nutrient loss reduction strategies through voluntary, non-regulatory programs.
“We are providing the water quality data at each of the sites where The Nature Conservancy will be constructing these two-stage ditches,” Bouldin explained. “We will sample prior to construction for background water quality data, limited sampling during the construction, and sampling post construction to measure the water quality improvement provided by the new drainage ditch design.”
Bouldin said they worked with TNC and the Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Commission to choose the sites.
Additional benefits to local producers include reduced localized flooding and on-farm sediment loss. Ditch construction and water quality monitoring is slated as a five-year project. An additional $3.7 million will be awarded for fiscal years 2024 through 2027. Future projects will focus on innovative, voluntary conservation practices that benefit producers and water quality.
Arkansas is one of 12 states participating in the Task Force working to reduce the size of a hypoxic zone, an area with reduced oxygen levels, in the Gulf of Mexico. The hypoxic zone is formed by excessive nutrients causing algae blooms; when these blooms decay, micro-bacteria consume the oxygen. This ultimately results in an area unsuitable for aquatic life, approximately one-10th the size of Arkansas.
More details about the project and the Department of Agriculture are available online.