Agricultural Research Service scientists are part of a consortium that has received an $800,000 research grant to implement farming management practices that could improve water quality in the ChoptankRiver watershed, which drains into the Chesapeake Bay.

The consortium received the funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation via its Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watersheds Grant Program.

The consortium includes ARS, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Caroline Soil Conservation District, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the University of Maryland-Extension Service, the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Laboratory, the SmithsonianEnvironmentalResearchCenter, public drainage associations and local farmers.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes about 64,000 square miles in six states. The Chesapeake is the nation’s largest fresh water estuary.

Agriculture is the primary land use in the ChoptankRiver watershed, accounting for 58 percent of the land. The scientists aim to enroll 6,000 acres per year in a commodity cover crop as a pilot program to study the feasibility of large-scale implementation of this strategy in the Choptank watershed.

By implementing this program, the consortium estimates a short-term reduction of 30,000 pounds per year of potential nitrogen loading into the ChoptankRiver. Installation of drainage controls will reduce potential nitrogen loading by an additional 1,600 pounds per year, and will also help establish new wetlands and enhance wildlife habitat.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Agricultural Research Service