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LITTLE ROCK – The Discovery Farm program is helping provide farmers the information
they need to keep nutrient loss to a minimum, said Mike Daniels, water quality and
nutrient management specialist with the University of Arkansas System Division of
“It’s empowering for the producer to see what’s coming off the land,” Daniels said
Daniels was part of a panel discussion on the “Importance of Nutrient Reduction Activities
by Private Landowners at the spring public meeting of the Mississippi River Gulf of
Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force. The meeting was held Wednesday at Little Rock’s
Statehouse Convention Center.
The presenters discussed projects aimed at restoring water quality in the Gulf of
Daniels shared the case of Steve Stevens, the example cotton farm in Arkansas’ nine-farm
strong Discovery Farm program. Daniels said that when the farmer was first approached
to join, he declined. Emphatically.
However, since seeing the data from his farm, his reluctance has evaporated, and he
is eager to share the findings with anyone who’s interested.
“The first year’s data is showing that he’s doing pretty good, and I think he wants
to refine it,” Daniels said. Once farmers “see the data, they’re willing to make changes.
Steve knows that if he is losing nitrogen, he’s losing money. That nitrogen is expensive.”
A key tool to nutrient management in Arkansas is soil testing. Daniels noted that
when he first came aboard at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service,
the soils lab was taking in 70,000 samples a year.
“In 2012, we pulled 178,000 soil test samples,” he said. “Some of those were mandatory
for nutrient management plans, but the vast majority is voluntary.”
The eagerness to use soil testing demonstrates that “our farmers are very good at
monitoring their land and implementing solutions,” Daniels said. “We often don’t give
them credit for that.”
Daniels said that while it is difficult to make a direct connection between what’s
found through edge-of-field monitoring to what might be flowing into the Mississippi
River, the monitoring information “gives farmers the confidence to make changes.”
Still, Daniels said farmers need better tools to help guide their work, and there’s
a big opportunity for land grant universities and other agencies to work together
to develop those tools.
Also on Wednesday’s program was Andrew Sharpley, professor with the University of
Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and a globally recognized expert in water
quality and nutrient management.
Sharpley is the leader of the Big Creek Research and Extension Team, which is studying
a controversial hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed in north Arkansas. He was
part of a panel discussing “Enhancing Nutrient Stewardship at the Local Level.”
Sharpley gave attendees an overview of the work being done on the hog farm and, citing
the many partnerships at work in the study, called it a “great example of land grant
working with a government agency.”
Sharpley and Daniels were among the presenters at the spring public meeting of the
Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force. The meeting was held
Wednesday at Little Rock’s Statehouse Convention Center.
A day earlier, participants in the meeting were in Stuttgart to hear presentations
and tour the Terry Dabbs farm, one of the statewide Discovery Farms, where researchers
are monitoring edge-of-field runoff and water quality.
The Discovery Farm program is operated with many partners: University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture, Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board,
Arkansas Rice Check-off, Arkansas Corn & Grain Sorghum Board, Arkansas Association
of Conservation Districts, Cotton Inc., The Walton Family Foundation, the state of
Arkansas, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and Monsanto.
For more information on water quality, contact your county extension office, or visit
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers its programs to all
eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age,
disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Mary HightowerThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org