Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment
The purpose of conducting research in Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment is to identify best management practice(s) or BMPs and best available technology (ies) or BATs to improve crop production and maximize its economic values while minimizing its adverse impact on the environment. The results will be used as an approach to support farmers/producers in Mississippi to achieve sustainable agriculture through economic growth and environmental compliance. Through research, crop production will be evaluated using conventional production practices versus improved management strategies and available technologies. Concurrently, cost and benefit analysis (CBA) associated with these practices (combination of management practices and available technologies) will be calculated. At the end of the studies, evaluations will be conducted to determine the least costly strategies that maximize profitability of production and minimize adverse impact to the environment. Information will be documented and disseminated throughout the community through seminars, workshops, publications, and media. Extension efforts will be exercised through direct and indirect communications with farmers/producers using publications and other information resources. This program will demonstrate how farmers can be both profitable and in compliance with existing agricultural laws and regulations that can lead to better government assistance opportunities. Efforts in environmental protection will provide farmers/producers with better opportunities to participate in government conservation and other related programs that would be beneficial to them. Overall, in the addition to the study of the relationships between soil, plant, water and nutrients, the planned program is parallel to several environmental concerns and can simultaneously address watershed protection and management as well as pollution prevention and mitigation -- an approach to achieve sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable Water Management for Small and Limited Resource Farmers
In areas where underserved farmers face economic and water challenges, developing strategies to engage producers on better crop water management is imperative for sustainable agriculture and water security. Mississippi showed the highest percent change of any state in irrigated area from 1978 (161,000 acres) to 1997 (1,076,000 acres). There are nearly 42,000 farms in Mississippi, of which 92% are classified as small. Small-scale farmers with limited resources produce mainly vegetables to maximize their returns, mostly without irrigation systems. The purpose of this project is to enhance agricultural water management on small-scale vegetable production systems for limited-resource farmers. The goal of this study is to test and demonstrate irrigation scheduling methods (evapotranspiration and soil moisture), irrigation methods (furrow, overhead, and drip), and cost-benefit analysis (comparing vegetable production using scientific and traditional irrigation scheduling methods). This project is stakeholder driven and is being developed with significant input from small farmers located through the State of Mississippi. This study will work with limited-resource farmers to find the best irrigation technology that can be adopted/adapted by them to enhance sustainability (profitability of the production system, stewardship of the natural resources, and quality of life of the community). This investigation will provide scientifically defensible information to support efforts that improve agricultural water use while increasing awareness of conservation and sustainable development.
Environmental Quality Assessment Monitoring Program in Alcorn’s Surface Waters
Alcorn State University - ASU is a residential campus located in southwest Mississippi. Approximately 360 acres of the ASU campus is located in the outskirts of the Muddy Bayou catchment. Runoff generated from these areas reaches a series of four lakes ranging from 2.2 acres to 13.8 acres. ASU student population is about 3,500 students. ASU lakes are used for fishing and recreation. In addition, a 0.5-mile long walking and bike trail across lake levees and through the woods provide space to get exercise. The goal of this study is to evaluate the temporal and spatial water quality variation of lakes that drain excess water to the Muddy Bayou system. Environmental and climate data collection started in summer 2013. Climate data is recorded using a WatchDog 2000 weather station installed at ASU campus. Google Earth software is used to generate maps, display sampling sites, and show results. Dissolved oxygen and water temperature are collected using a Hanna portable meter with a 4-meter cable. A swing sampler will be used to collect discrete water samples. Water samples will be tested for fecal bacteria indicators, nutrients, and sediments.