Agroforestry and grass buffer effects on water quality on grazed pasture watersheds
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Conservation practices including agroforestry and grass buffers are believed to reduce non point source pollution (NPSP) from grazed pasture watersheds. Agroforestry, a land management practice that intersperses agricultural crops with trees, recently received increased attention in the temperate zone due to its environmental and economic benefits. However, studies are limited that examined buffer effects on water quality on grazed pasture watersheds. Six small watersheds, two with agroforestry buffers, two with grass buffers, and two control watershdeds were used to test the hypothesis that agroforestry and grass buffers reduce NPSP from grazed pasture watersheds. Vegetation in grass buffer and pasture areas include red clover (Trifolium pretense L.) and lespedeza (Kummerowia stipulacea Maxim.) planted into fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.). Eastern cottonwood trees (Populus deltoids Bortr. ex Marsh.) were planted into fescue in agroforestry buffers. Soils at the site are mostly Menfro silt loam (fine-silty, mixed, superactive, mesic Typic Hapludalfs). Watersheds were instrumented with two-foot H flumes, water samplers, and flow measuring devices in 2001. Composite water samples were analyzed for sediment, and total nitrogen after each runoff event to compare treatment differences. Watersheds with agroforerstry and grass buffers had significantly lower runoff volumes as compared to the control watersheds. The loss of sediment, and total nitrogen were smaller for the buffer watersheds. The results of the study suggest that establishment of groforestry and grass buffers help reduce NPSP pollution from grazed pasture watersheds. It is anticipated as trees grow and roots occupy more soil volume, the reduction in N in runoff should increase on the agroforestry watershed.