Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014IL289B

Hydrologic Impacts of an alternative agricultural land use: a woody perennial polyculture

Institute: Illinois
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $4,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $8,000

Principal Investigators: Evan DeLucia, Kevin Wolz

Abstract: The woody and perennial growth habit, extended growing season, low-chemical requirements,heterogeneous structure, and diverse composition give the woody perennial polyculture land use alternative the potential to ameliorate the major hydrologic and environmental impacts created by the conversion of the Midwestern U.S. from native vegetation to intensive row crop agriculture. While this is a significantly more complex land use than the current system, long-term studies have repeatedly shown that both productivity and stability increase with species richness. Other studies have shown that more diverse agricultural systems can meet or exceed the performance of less diverse systems while utilizing significantly less chemical inputs, thereby reducing runoff contamination and increasing economic stability. While profitable, large-scale examples of this type are already in place on oncedegraded farmland across the Midwestern U.S., there has been no direct comparison of the hydrologic impacts of a WPP to the corn-soybean rotation. Our project studies the potential of a WPP to alter the hydrologic cycle in a side-by-side comparison to a corn-soybean rotation. While the magnitude of the WPP’s hydrologic influence will undoubtedly increase over time, funds requested in this proposal will allow study of the land use transition period, which is when some of the most interesting effects take place in land cover and land use change studies. IWRC funds will act as seed funding for the longer-term project by establishing the critical equipment infrastructure and baseline data collection needed to measure hydrologic properties long term. Furthermore, this funding and initial study will permit the parameterization of hydrologic models that can be used to predict the functioning of the WPP in the long run. These model predictions will then form the base hypothesis for long-term studies. As part of the larger body of work surrounding the investigation of the impacts of a WPP, parallel work by other investigators at the same research site will be simultaneously conducted on carbon and nutrient cycles. While these cycles are inextricably linked to the hydrologic cycle, this proposal focuses on the hydrologic aspects described above. Work in 2014 will focus on collecting data for all of the key hydrologic processes in the field as well as parameterizing the first round of model simulations to predict the long-term impact of the WPP system.