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Environmental Quality Research in the Beasley Lake Watershed, 1995-2007: Succession from Conventional to Conservation Practices

Locke, M.A., Knight, S.S., Smith, S. Jr., Cullum, R.F., Zablotowicz, R.M., Yuan, Y., Bingner, R.L.
Journal of soil and water conservation 2008 v.63 no.6 pp. 430
agricultural watersheds, lakes, conservation practices, water quality, water pollution, tillage, agricultural runoff, soil nutrients, pesticides, limnology, fisheries, USDA, conservation programs, governmental programs and projects, meta-analysis, Mississippi Delta region
Beasley Lake Watershed, Mississippi, one of 14 USDA-ARS benchmark watersheds in the national CEAP research effort, is typical of topography and cropping systems in the Mississippi Delta Region of the United States. Beasley Watershed, formerly a component of the Mississippi Delta Management Systems Evaluation Area (MD-MSEA) Project, drains into an oxbow lake that has been monitored since 1995. Environmental assessments in support of CEAP have continued since 2003 with termination of the MD-MSEA project. When evaluations began in 1995, 79% of the 915-ha watershed was in row crop agriculture and the remaining area (21%) included a 25-ha lake and a 135-ha riparian forest. From 1995 to the present, agricultural activities in the watershed have evolved from predominantly cotton and soybean (63.3% and 12.2% of watershed area, respectively) production to a mixture of row crops (66.5% of total watershed area) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) (12.4% of total watershed area) in 2005. In contrast to 1995, the 2005 cropped land consists of 243 ha soybeans and 81 ha cotton. This paper reports on CEAP research in Beasley Watershed, including continued monitoring of lake limnology, evaluating runoff from edge-of-field sites with various management practices, quantifying management effects in areas that have shifted to CRP, compiling watershed data from the past years of assessment, and modeling.