Baseline Assessment of Geisler Farm Site: Collection of Pre-BMP Monitoring Data

Date: 
Sep 2017

Issue

Being able to document water quality improvements produced by best management practices (BMPs) is important. Yet improved water quality demonstrated at the plot scale on research farms under controlled environments is difficult to replicate at the larger scale of producer fields because of variations in topography, soil types, hydrology and other factors. Confounding the process of demonstrating success is the absence of baseline monitoring data prior to BMP installation.

Objective

Baseline monitoring data will be collected at the 160-acre Jake Geisler farm located in Calhoun County, Iowa. The project objective is to characterize the soil, geology, hydrology and water quality conditions of the farm prior to the establishment of conservation BMPs. The assessment will provide baseline data so future land and water quality change implemented at the site can be more easily detected.

Approach

The farm site is bisected by two drainage ditches and recently was extensively tiled with more than 65,000 feet of new tile. The assessment will include collection of water samples from the tiles and ditches using grab sampling and a continuous Nitratax sensor, installation and sampling of shallow groundwater wells, geophysical investigation, and soil health assessment. Monitoring will begin in the fall of 2017 and continue through 2018. BMPs will be installed in 2018-2019 using funds provided by traditional federal and state programs.

Project Updates

August 2019

Well, tile and stream sampling at the Geisler farm led by Iowa Geological Survey was completed in December 2018. Ongoing monitoring of flowing tiles and the stream is being conducted by the Iowa Soybean Association. IGS is also collecting high frequency stream stage and water table measurements in 2019. During the reporting period, water level and quality data were compiled and analyzed. A groundwater flow model was built for the farm field to estimate groundwater discharge into the ditch. Nutrient loads exported from tiles and groundwater have been calculated. A final project research paper is being drafted.

Results from the Geisler project will be shared as part of a presentation at the 2019 AGU meeting in San Francisco in December.

September 2018

From July to September, bi-weekly water sampling has been completed for all wells, flowing drainage tiles and stream water at the study site. Analysis of the soil samples has been completed and results are being compiled. 

June 2018

From April to June, bi-weekly water sampling has been completed for all wells, flowing drainage tiles and stream water at the study site. Results are being compiled. Each well was installed with a pressure transducer last fall and continues to monitor groundwater fluctuations 4 times per hour. Interestingly, even with the extensive rains in the area and the high water table, three drainage tiles have been consistently dry. Analysis of the soil samples continues with an anticipated completion sometime in August. 

March 2018

Bi-weekly water sampling of monitoring wells and flowing tiles got underway this quarter. Lab analysis for soil samples taken in November continues. 

December 2017

A detailed analysis of the project area was conducted by the IGS team. Geophysical studies were completed for the study area, including six electrical resistivity transects and a deep electrical conductivity survey. Sixty soil cores were collected in six transects. Shallow electrical conductivity was measured at each soil sampling location. Nine groundwater monitoring wells were installed, with three in each of three transects. Pressure transducers were installed in each well to continuously monitor water levels.