In the environmental discipline, ARS faculty conduct research that focuses on issues related to soil and water quality. With the aim of developing best management practices (BMP), scientists study approaches for efficiently and economically managing agricultural chemicals, attempting to determine their fate and transport in the environment.
Nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural and municipal wastewaters are known to contribute to eutrophication of surface waters; in response to this, scientists in the Soil and Water Lab have developed a method to safely remove these nutrients as dittmarite, a naturally occurring compound that has potential for use as a fertilizer.
ARS scientists also work to show the functional value of wetlands and riparian zones in terms of their water quality impacts, evaluating the effectiveness of conservation grasses in abating the transport of nutrients and pesticides. The environmental program seeks to develop and promote conservation practices that protect the quality of soil and water, while simultaneously preserving and enhancing farm profits.