KCARE Research Today

From the Director

Dan Devlin

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are deep into the harvest season and winter is approaching. The changing season signals a busy time for KCARE: we are launching number of new projects, submitting reports, and there are many upcoming meetings and conferences. To keep yourself up-to-date, I invite you to follow KCARE’s new Twitter page, @KStateKCARE. Please send us your news and events so we can get your information out to our followers!

I want to particularly remind everyone about two upcoming events. The Governor’s Water Conference will be held in Manhattan on November 8-9. This years’ program looks outstanding, and I suggest registering as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Prior to the Governor’s Conference, on November 6-7, K-State will host a project meeting NIFA Ogallala Water CAP project meeting. Irrigation and water research and extension faculty from K-State and eight other universities will take part in the discussion about irrigation and water research. I am looking forward to seeing our results from 2017 and making plans for next year’s research and extension activities.

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2017 Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas

The sixth annual Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas will be held November 8-9 at the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center in Manhattan, Kansas.  The conference brings together scientists, water managers, state and federal officials and legislators, city and county administrators, environmental organizations, irrigators and citizens who share an interest in Kansas water resources.

Events for the conference include special speakers, a photo contest and poster session. The Water Legacy and Be the Vision award recipients also will be presented. Breakout sessions will cover a variety of subjects: in addition to a session about emergency response efforts in Kansas, panelists from other states will discuss how agricultural and municipal stakeholders partner to benefit and improve water supply. Other sessions will feature federal and state leaders’ updates on the Farm Bill, and Israeli officials will provide updates in another breakout session on their successes and challenges going from drought to surplus water supply.

Keynote speakers on day one include Jim Guilliford, EPA Region 7 Administrator, and Michael Teague, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and the Environment.

Sponsors for the event include over 40 different businesses, associations, and agencies from across Kansas. Registration has sold out for day two of the conference, but interested attendees can contact the Kansas Water Office to be placed on a waiting list. Registration for day one is still open.

KCARE has a new look

Kansas State University established KCARE in order to coordinate and enhance the research, extension, and teaching activities that focus on environmental issues relating to agriculture. KCARE supports research spanning multiple departments and disciplines: soil science, smoke management, cropping systems, water quality and irrigation, fertilizer research, and climate studies.new KCARE logo

Although the core mission for us remains the same, our look is starting to change. As a part of this, we are happy to share with you the new KCARE logo. This new design encompasses the connection between agriculture and the environment which is at the heart of KCARE. Any KCARE affiliates are invited to use this logo: as a link to the KCARE site on your personal or departmental webpages, on brochures or handouts including KCARE-supported research, or anywhere else you want to highlight our partnership.

If you would like to use the KCARE logo, please contact Melissa Harvey (mharvey@ksu.edu) for more information.

We have also launched a new KCARE Twitter account. Please follow us at @KStateKCARE to learn about current projects, events, or other news. Of course, we welcome your input: if there’s something you think we need to highlight, either on our website or on our Twitter account, don’t be shy! Let us know!

It is our privilege and pleasure to work with research and extension faculty, students, and members of our community to explore new ways to create quality solutions for the environmental issues our state faces now and into the future. Through our partnerships, we are helping Kansas agriculture remain successful and sustainable.

Making every drop count

Fort Riley looms large to the southwest of Manhattan, spreading over 100,000 acres and serving more than 40,000 active duty service members, their families, and other civilian employees. The base is surrounded by water: it’s sandwiched between two reservoirs – Milford and Tuttle Creek – and located along both the Republican and Kansas Rivers.

Because of this, Fort Riley was selected in 2011 to participate in the “Net Zero Initiative” as one of six Net Zero Water Pilot instillations tasked to maintain the quality and quantity of groundwater and surface water resources in the area. For K-State professor Stacy Hutchinson, this was an opportunity to evaluate the limitations and advantages of an advanced oxidation water treatment process, and assess the applications of this system using water samples from Fort Riley.

Two scientists examine samples in a lab
K-State student Shannon Mudd (left) and Professor Stacy Hutchinson examine E. coli samples

The advanced oxidation process – or AOP – is a system that uses UV irradiation and ozone to treat biologically contaminated water. The process isn’t new, but the design is unique: Hutchinson and her team wanted to make the system mobile to assist with troop security in forward deployment areas. Those troops cannot always rely on supply convoys, and often cannot transport caustic chemicals for water decontamination or carry heavy supplies of potable water. Instead, they could use the mobile AOP on water from local sources or wells, even ones contaminated with a biological agent.

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Feedlot managers make changes to protect water quality

Three watershed specialists speak at the feedlot field day

By Jeff Davidson, K-State Watershed Specialist

Over fifty local producers, K-State researchers, and other experts gathered for a feedlot field day in early October to discuss the importance of both cattle and feeding facility management. The event showcased the well-designed and managed cattle backgrounding facility owned by Jarret and Shawna Moyer north of Emporia. K-State watershed specialists used the event to stress the importance and value of feedlot management in relation to water quality.

The farmers and ranchers who attended reported a measurable increase in knowledge about the day’s topics, which included: conservation, alternative watering systems, cover crops, site selection, managing runoff, and cattle handling facilities and techniques. Event organizers said that, based on a written evaluation, 83 percent of participants also plan on sharing their new knowledge with other producers. Already, some attendees have reported that they plan to change their home operations to benefit the waters of Kansas. Continue reading “Feedlot managers make changes to protect water quality”

K-State professor works toward sustainable water quality

Stacy Hutchinson

K-State professor Stacy Hutchinson is an award-winning teacher and a decorated U.S. Army veteran. Her work in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering focuses on developing new techniques for improving water quality and quantity as well as sustainable water management practices. Her projects have been awarded funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the US Department of Agriculture.

Hutchinson’s research projects include work on the use of vegetated systems for the mitigation of non-point source pollution, the development of sustainable storm water and land management techniques, and the remediation of contaminated soil and water. Continue reading “K-State professor works toward sustainable water quality”

From the Director

Dan Devlin

Friends, it’s time to welcome fall. What a great time of the year for us … students have returned to campus, classes are back in full-swing, and K-State football is finally here again! We at KCARE are very excited to note some successes of the season: the Experiment Station and Water Technology Farms’ field days were well-attended, and there appears to be lots of interest in implementing new water management technologies across the state. Please read more about the Water Technology Farms in this edition of our newsletter. I also appreciate all the efforts by irrigators and others to explore the development of new LEMAs, etc.

I look forward to getting updated on research results and other water issues at the 2017 Governor’s Water Conference in Manhattan on November 8-9.   Registration for the event will be available in September, but a call for abstracts on water research is ongoing. Please check the KCARE website for more information.

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Letting it all soak in: Water Technology Farms lead the way in water conservation

On a sun-drenched August day, a group of farmers, sales representatives, government officials and university researchers were gathered, not in a conference room, but in the middle of a cornfield. Under the unrelenting sun, everyone had one thing on their minds: water, and how to use less of it.

This is a Water Technology Farm, one of the working farms sprinkled across the state whose owners have volunteered to focus on water conservation, in addition to crops and livestock. University researchers often tout new irrigation technologies as efficient or cost-effective, but farmers never really know how those technologies – so triumphant in a controlled experimental field – will perform in their own fields. With Water Technology Farms, producers can see first-hand how the latest irrigation technologies work in a real-world setting.

Crowds gather to learn more about water-saving technologies near Larned, Kansas. Photo courtesy Richard Rockel, Kansas Water Office

At six different Water Technology Farm field days across the state, K-State extension water resource engineer Jonathan Aguilar explained to the public how these farms work: by showcasing technologies such as mobile drip irrigation (MDI), evapotranspiration (ET)-based scheduling tools, soil water sensors and other tools, producers can see visible proof about how each of these experimental methodologies can assist them in their efforts toward water conservation.

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KCARE Director selected for National Institutes for Water Resources leadership post

Daniel L. Devlin has been selected as President-Elect of the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR), effective October 1, 2017.

NIWR is a national organization of Water Resources Research Institutes established under the Water Resources Research Act of 1964. Its 54 member institutes – one located in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam – work closely with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other partners to carry out their mission of objective research and communication on issues relating to the nation’s water supplies.

Devlin will serve a one-year term as NIWR President-Elect before taking on the position of President for 2018-2019. His duties as President-Elect will include planning and presiding over the organization’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in February. Devlin currently holds positions as the Director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources (KCARE) and the Kansas Water Resources Institute (KWRI) at Kansas State University. He is also a Professor in K-State’s Department of Agronomy.

“It will be an honor to represent the water institutes during the next few years,” said Devlin. “This is a great opportunity for me to work in a leadership role within the water research institutes across the country.”

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Helping producers steer clear of forage toxic to cattle

Farmers use cover crops to reap plenty of benefits. Cover crops are a great way to slow down erosion or to stop weeds from covering fields. They can attract pollinators. Some varieties take nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots to benefit soil quality. And for livestock producers, cover crops have an added benefit: they also can serve as forage for grazing animals.

However, the reality takes more planning to avoid losses for farmers – some of them catastrophic.

cow grazing in field

Cover crops are a little bit like the story of Goldilocks: there are only some considered “just right” for cattle and deemed “very safe” by experts. Other varieties are “too hot or too cold”: they can cause metabolic issues for livestock that, while manageable, can be an unpleasant surprise for uninformed producers. Still other cover crop varieties are so toxic, they can kill entire herds.

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