KCARE Research Today

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.

Continue reading “From the Director”

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.

Continue reading “Letting it all soak in: Water Technology Farms lead the way in water conservation”

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.”

Continue reading “KCARE Director selected for National Institutes for Water Resources leadership post”

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.

Continue reading “Helping producers steer clear of forage toxic to cattle”

Manhattan hosts 2017 Agricultural Growth Summit

K-State faculty were among the more than 400 agricultural leaders that attended the second annual Agricultural Growth Summit in Manhattan on August 24. Coordinated by the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the summit provided a framework to create connected communities within each of the state’s agricultural sectors.

“While there are disagreements on some subjects, there are no disagreements on agriculture,” said Governor Brownback, who opened the summit and discussed the importance of agriculture to the state, which is the largest industry in Kansas and produces tens of billions of dollars in revenue annually. He called on summit participants to continue working to cultivate the expansion of the Kansas agriculture industry.

Continue reading “Manhattan hosts 2017 Agricultural Growth Summit”

K-State researcher produces new innovations for Kansas farmers

Kansas leads most of the nation when it comes to agriculture, and it’s a tradition that has existed since before the Sunflower State joined the Union. Over the course of time, much about farming has changed in each of Kansas’ 105 counties ­– from crop rotations to farm equipment to irrigation technologies. Dr. Jonathan Aguilar is one of the researchers from Kansas State University helping farmers use the latest innovations to improve their harvest.

Jonathan Aguilar addresses farmers at tech farm field day
Photo courtesy of Katie Ingels, Kansas Water Office

Dr. Aguilar hails from the Philippines, where he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural engineering from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB). While there, his studies focused on land and water resources as it pertained to irrigated agriculture and environmental stewardship. After graduating, he continued to work at the university as a researcher, as well as taking on several water resource-related projects with the UPLB Foundation, the Philippine Department of Agriculture, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Dr. Aguilar came to K-State to pursue his doctoral degree in biological and agricultural engineering and graduated in 2009. He joined the faculty here in 2012.

Continue reading “K-State researcher produces new innovations for Kansas farmers”

From the Director

Dan Devlin

Welcome to the first issue of the new KCARE newsletter series! KCARE focuses on projects that find and implement solutions to issues around agriculture and the environment, such as water quality, irrigation and water quantity, the impacts of cover crops and tillage practices, fertility, climate change, air quality, etc. We want to make sure that we get information about this important work to you as soon as possible – and this newsletter will play a large role in that. This monthly publication will spotlight Kansas State University research and extension faculty as well as provide summaries of cutting-edge research and extension projects conducted here at K-State. I am excited to bring this information to you, and I thank the faculty and staff for their support.

You will also notice that the KCARE website is being completely revamped with much more current information – on both faculty and projects. Keep checking back to find new updates!

Continue reading “From the Director”

Growing more with less: Using irrigation technologies to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer

Researcher installs soil sensors below crops

Water use is something that both researchers and farmers have explored for decades: what happens to a crop when irrigation is reduced? All backyard gardeners or self-proclaimed green thumb know that plants need water. But how much water is enough? What amount still guarantees healthy plant growth and a good yield of wheat, corn, alfalfa, sorghum, or sunflower? Agricultural engineers are experimenting with new ways to grow more with less water in a process called deficit irrigation: it’s a practice where farmers reduce the amount of water applied to a crop, allowing mild stress to the growing plants.

According to the FAO, irrigated agriculture uses more than 70 percent of the water withdrawn from the earth’s rivers; in developing countries around the world, that figure can exceed 80 percent. In Kansas, irrigation accounts for 85 percent of all consumptive water use ­– mainly from the Ogallala aquifer. With unsure rainfalls and aquifers diminishing faster than they can recharge, the trick is knowing exactly how much stress a crop can take, and precisely adjusting irrigation to still result in a profitable harvest. Dr. Isaya Kisekka, an assistant professor in K-State’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, is working to take the guesswork out of the equation and give farmers the tools they need to maintain their net profitability and protect the state’s water resources for future Kansas farmers.

Continue reading “Growing more with less: Using irrigation technologies to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer”