Water storage project to advance new practices

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Jane Frankenberger of Purdue
Purdue University Professor Jane Frankenberger is leading research to improve water management on farms.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Jane Frankenberger, professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University, is directing a federally funded five-year, $5 million research project examining the economic and environmental benefits and costs of storing water on farms.

The project will also address the issues of farm nutrients draining from fields and causing problems downstream, and the need for water in the late summer to irrigate sometimes parched crops. Frankenberger said the research will collect data now that will help farmers make better decisions in the future.

The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Other universities in the research project, titled “Managing Water for Increased Resiliency of Drained Agricultural Landscapes,” are Iowa State University, North Dakota State University, Ohio State University, University of Missouri, North Carolina State University, South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota as well as the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

The objective is to advance three innovative practices — drainage water management, saturated buffers, and reservoirs — to address the problems of crop loss from increased likelihood of summer drought and the degradation of water quality from drained farmland.

The researchers say each of the practices has been evaluated at scattered fields across the region but that findings have not yet been brought together and made into tools to improve decision-making.

Drained lands comprise about 25 percent of U.S. cropland, some of it among the most productive in the world. Depending on the weather in any year, they can get too much water from rain and snow and not enough water, such as from drought. Many scientists believe that such conditions are expected to intensify with changing climate.

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