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Science Seminar Series


The efficacy of fall cover crops as they relate to stream water quality: A paired watershed approach.

              Indiana’s landscape has dramatically changed since the days before European settlement.  Today there is approximately 4.5 million acres of forest land compared to 20 million acres of forest that originally made-up the Indiana landscape. Most of the forests remaining is in northern Indiana and is fragmented woodlots scattered across the landscape. Today row-crop agriculture accounts for the largest percentage of the land use within the state and contributes a significant portion of non-point source pollution (NPS) in streams and lakes. While nitrogen and phosphorus are important constituents of NPS, sediment is by volume the largest nonpoint source pollutant. Among the challenges of modern agriculture, is to operate a profitable business and protect soil and water resources.  Agricultural producers have relied on a wide variety of best management practices (BMPs) as prescribed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service that have been designed to minimize nutrient and soil loss.  Some of these practices include: two-stage ditches, buffer strips, no-till farming, fall cover crops, precision equipment, and many others.   However there are few data that documents the effectiveness of these practices in reducing NPS.  The Environmental Studies Program at Manchester University has partnered with the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, National Resource Conservation District, and local cooperating agriculture producers to conduct a Paired watershed study to determine the effectiveness of best management practices (BMP).  The study will be conducted on two watersheds each approximately 2,000 acres (444 hectares) over the next three years to better understand the effects of BMPs. The effectiveness of the BMP’s will be measured by the reduction in stream sediment, nitrate, and phosphorus concentrations within the waterway. The PawPaw creek watershed will be untreated with BMP’s and left to the producers individual farming techniques. Whereas the Beargrass creek watershed will have as many acres cover in BMP’s  as possible in hopes to lower the pollution concentrations.

Goals of the study

  • Detect a change in water quality when BMP’s are applied
    • By analyzing Sediment, Nitrate, and Phosphorus concentrations in the water
  • Record the Biological community of each steam

PawPaw Creek Watershed, for Paired watershed study

PawPaw Creek Waterhshed, for Paired Watershed Study

Beargrass Creek Watershed, for Paired Watershed Study

Beargrass Creek Watershed, for Paired Watershed Study


Test Equipment in the lab
Water Sampler
Data Logger
Downloading the Data



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