Field Technology & Water Quality Outreach

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In 2015, Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) partnered with local and state agencies to help identify potential sources of fecal coliform bacteria that were impacting shellfish beds in northwest Washington.  WSDA and Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) program partners began collecting ambient, as well as rain-driven, source identification water samples. Large watersheds with multiple sub-basins, changing weather and field conditions, and recent nutrient applications, meant new sites were added almost daily. The increased sampling created an avalanche of new data. With this data, we needed to figure out how to share it in a way that was timely, clear and could motivate change. Picture of water quality data via spreadsheet, graphs, and maps.

Conveying complex water quality results to a broad audience can be challenging. Previously, water quality data would be shared with the public and partners through spreadsheets or graphs via email, meetings or quarterly updates. However, the data that was being shared was often too late or too overwhelming to link locations, weather or field conditions to water quality. Even though plenty of data was available, it was difficult for it to have meaningful context to the general public.

Ease of access to results can help inform landowners of hot spots near their home, it can link recent weather and their own land management practices with water quality, as well as inform and influence decision-making.

What Did We Do?

Using basic GIS tools we created an interactive map, to share recent water quality results. The map is available on smartphones, tablets and personal computers, displaying near-real-time results from multiple agencies.  Viewers can access the map 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We have noticed increPicture of basic GIS tool.ased engagement from our dairy producers, with many checking the results map regularly for updates. The map is symbolized with graduated stop light symbology, with poor water quality shown in red and good in green. If they see a red dot or “hot spot” in their neighborhood they may stop us on the street, send an email, or call with ideas or observations of what they believe may have influenced water quality. It has opened the door to conversations and partnerships in identifying and correcting possible influences from their farm.

The map also contains historic results data for each site, which can show changes in water quality. It allows the viewer to evaluate if the results are the norm or an anomaly. “Are high results after a rainfall event or when my animals are on that pasture?”

The online map has also increased engagement with our Canadian neighbors to the north. By collecting samples at the US/Canadian border we have been able to map streams where elevated bacteria levels come across the border. This has created an opportunity to partner with our Canadian counterparts to continue to identify and correct sources.

What Have We Learned?

You do not need to be a GIS professional to create an app like this for your organization. Learning the system and fine-tuning the web application can take some time, but it is well worth the investment. GIS skills derived from this project have proven invaluable as the app transfers to other areas of non-point work.  The web application has created great efficiencies in collaboration, allowing field staff to quickly evaluate water quality trends in order to spend their time where it is most needed. The application has also provided transparency to the public regarding our field work, demonstrating why we are sampling particular areas.

From producer surveys, we have learned that viewers prefer a one-stop portal for information. Viewers are less concerned about what agency collected the data as they are interested in what the data says. This includes recent, as well as historical water quality data, field observations; such as wildlife or livestock presence or other potential sources. Also, a brief weekly overview of conditions, observations and/or trends has been requested to provide additional context.

Future Plans

The ease and efficiency of the mobile mapping and data sharing has opened the door to other collaborative projects. Currently we are developing a “Nutrient Tracker” application that allows all PIC partners to easily update a map from the field. The map allows the user to log recent field applications of manure. Using polygons to draw the area on the field, staff can note the date nutrients were identified, type of application, proximity to surface water, if it was a low-, medium- or high-risk application, if follow-up is warranted, and what agency would be the lead contact. This is a helpful tool in learning how producers utilize nutrients, to refer properties of concern to the appropriate agency, and to evaluate recent water quality results against known applications.

Developing another outreach tool, WSDA is collecting 5 years of fall soil nitrate tests from all dairy fields in Washington State. The goal is to create a visual representation of soil data, to demonstrate to producers how nitrate levels on fields have changed from year to year, and to easily identify areas that need to be re-evaluated when making nutrient application decisions.

As part of a collaborative Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) group, we would like to create a “Story Map” that details the current situation, why it is a concern, explain potential sources and what steps can be taken at an individual level to make a difference. A map that visually demonstrates where the watersheds are and how local neighborhoods really do connect to people 7 miles downstream.  An interactive map that not only shows sampling locations, but allows the viewer to drill down deeper for more information about the focus areas, such as pop-ups that explain what fecal coliform bacteria are and what factors can increase bacteria levels. We envision a multi-layer map that includes 24-hour rainfall, river rise, and shellfish bed closures. This interactive map will also share success stories as well as on-going efforts.


Kerri Love, Dairy Nutrient Inspector, Dairy Nutrient Management Program, Washington State Department of Agriculture

Additional Information

Results Map Link:

Washington Shellfish Initiative:

Mobile Mapping Technology presentation by Michael Isensee, 2016 National CAFO Roundtable

Sharing the Data: Interactive Maps Provide Rapid Feedback on Recent Water Quality and Incite Change by Educating the Public, Kyrre Flege, Washington State Department of Agriculture and Jessica Kirkpatrick, Washington State Department of Ecology,  2016 National Non-Point Source Monitoring Workshop

Whatcom County PIC Program:

Skagit County, Clean Samish Initiative:

Lower Stillguamish PIC Program:

GIS Web Applications:


The web application was a collaborative project developed by Kyrre Flege, Washington State Department of Agriculture and Jessica Kirkpatrick, Washington State Department of Ecology.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Dairy Production Systems of the Great Lakes

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To better understand how dairy agriculture can reduce its impact on climate change, the USDA has supported a large, transdisciplinary research project to examine dairy production systems across the Great Lakes region of the United States. The goals of the Sustainable Dairy Coordinated Agricultural Project are to identify where in the life cycle of a dairy system can beneficial management practices (BMP) be applied to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) without sacrificing productivity or profit to the farmer. Since 2013, a team of 70 researchers has been collaborating across institutions and disciplines to conduct the investigations.

What did we do?

Experimental data were collected at the cow, barn, manure, crop and soil levels from 2013-2016 by agricultural and life scientists. Modelers continue to conduct comparative analyses of process models at the animal, field and farm scales. Atmospheric scientists have down-scaled global climate models to the Great Lakes region and are integrating climate projections with process modeling results. The Life Cycle Assessment team is evaluating select beneficial management practices to identify where the greatest reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) may occur. Results of focus groups and farmer surveys in Wisconsin and New York will help us understand how producers currently farm and what types of changes they may be willing to implement, not just to reduce emissions but to adapt to long-term changes in climate.

What have we learned?

Through the Dairy CAP grant, researchers have developed and refined the best ways to measure GHG emissions at the cow, barn, manure, crop and soil levels, and these data are archived through the USDA National Sustainable Dairy LogoAgricultural Library. Results show that the greatest levels of methane produced on a farm come from enteric emissions of the cow and changes in the diet, digestion and genetics of the cow can reduce those emissions. Another significant source of methane—manure production, storage and management—can be substantially reduced through manure management practices, particularly when it is processed through an anaerobic digester. Changes in timing of nitrogen application and use of cover crops practices are found to improve nitrogen efficiency and reduce losses from the field.

A comparative analysis of process models showed multiple differences in their ability to predict GHG emissions and nutrient flow (particularly nitrogen dynamics) at the animal, farm, and field scales. Field data collected were used to calibrate and refine several models. The Life Cycle Assessment approach shows that a combination of BMPs can reduce GHG emissions without sacrificing milk production. The application of down-scaled climate data for the Great Lakes region is being used in conjunction with the suite of BMPs to develop mitigation and adaptation scenarios for dairy farming in the Upper Midwest.

Research findings are shared through a series of fact sheets available on the project website, and a web-based, virtual farm that presents educational materials for 150- and 1500-cow operations to a variety of audiences, ranging from high school students to academics.

Future Plans

The Dairy CAP grant sunsets in 2018, but research questions remain relative to the efficacy of beneficial management practices at different stages in the life cycle of a farm. Challenges revolve around the complexity of farming practices, the individuality of each farm and how it is managed, and uncertainty associated with the predictive capabilities of models. Mitigation and adaptation strategies will be shared with the dairy industry, educators and extension partners who will be responsible for working with farmers at the field level. Implementation of these strategies will make dairy farming in the Great Lakes region more resilient.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Carolyn Betz, Research Project Manager, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Department of Soil Science

Corresponding author email

Other authors

Matt Ruark and Molly Jahn

Additional information


This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2013-68002-20525.

Communicating About Climate Change

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Climate change has become a hot-button issue in mainstream American politics, and people are divided over its causes, impacts, and solutions. This presentation will offer an overview of how the public views the issue of climate change, several explanations for these differences in perception, and possible approaches for bridging the gaps through innovative communication strategies. I will also present some initial findings from a NSF funded project aimed at communicating about climate change and its long-term association with the issue of agricultural runoff in the Maumee Watershed area of Ohio.

This presentation will include information about:

  • Public opinion trends about climate change and public policy
  • Different explanations for divisions in public opinion about climate change
  • What the latest communication research tells us about best climate change communication practices, and about developing a public consensus about this issue

What Did We Do?


What Have We Learned?.

Future Plans


Dr. Erik Nisbet, Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University

Corresponding author email address


Additional Information

You may learn more information about the topic of climate change at the Ohio State University Changing Climate website

On-Farm Field Days as a Tool to Demonstrate Agricultural Waste Management Practices and Educate Producers

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Teaching Best Management Practices (BMP) or introducing new agricultural waste management practices to livestock producers and farmers is a challenge. This poster describes a series of on-farm field days designed to deliver information and demonstrate on-site several waste management techniques, most of them well established in other parts of the country but sparsely used in Idaho. During these field days, Extension personnel presented each technique and offered written information on how to apply them. But without a doubt, presentations by the livestock producers and farmers who are already applying the techniques and hosted each field day at their farms was the main tool to spark interest and conversations with attendees.

Four field days were delivered in 2012 with more programmed for 2013. Demonstrated techniques reduce ammonia and odor emissions, increase nitrogen retention from manure, reduce run-off risks, and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Topics addressed on each field day were, a: Dairy manure collection and composting, 20 attendees. b: Dairy manure land application ten attendees. c: Grape vine prunings and dairy manure composting, 50 attendees. d: Mortality and offal on-farm composting, 40 attendees. In all cases farm owners and their managers presented and were available to answer attendees’ questions, sharing their experience, and opinions regarding the demonstrated practices. Many attendees expressed their interest and willingness to adopt some of the demonstrated practices. On-farm field days are an excellent tool to increase understanding and adoption of BMP and new technologies. Hearing experiences first hand from producers applying the techniques and being able to see them in action are excellent outreach tools. On-farm field days also fit the fast pace, busy schedule of modern producers who can later visit with Extension and other personnel if they need more details, information, and help on how to adopt the techniques they are interested in.

Why Hold Field Days on Ag Waste Management?

The dairy industry is the number one revenue commodity in Idaho. At the same time Idaho is ranked third in milk production in the nation. Idaho has more than 580,000 dairy cows distributed in 550 dairy operations (Idaho State Department of Agriculture 1/2013). The Magic Valley area in south-central Idaho hosts 54% of those dairies and 73% of all dairy cows in the state (Idaho Dairymen’s Association internal report, 2012).  Odors from dairies and other animal feeding operations are a major issue in Idaho and across the country.  In addition, the loss of ammonia from manures reduces the nutrient value of the manure and generates local and regional pollution. Dairy farmers of all sizes need more options on how to treat and dispose of the manure generated by their operations. Odor reductions, capture of nitrogen in dairy manure, reduction of greenhouse gases emissions, off-farm nutrients export, water quality protection, and reduction of their dairy operation’s environmental impact are some of the big challenges facing the dairy industry in Idaho and around the country. There are many Best Management Practices (BMP) that are proven to work on providing results related to the challenges mentioned before. Some of these practices are widely adopted in certain parts of the country or in other countries, with a lack of adoption by dairy producers and farmers in other parts of the country. This poster shows a series of Extension and research efforts designed to introduce and locally test proven BMP to dairy producers and crop farmers in southern Idaho in an effort to increase their adoption and incorporate those BMP as regular practices in Idaho agriculture. The four projects described were delivered in 2012 and some will continue in 2013.

What Did We Do?

To demonstrate and test BMP we chose to develop on-farm research projects to collect data and couple these projects with on-farm field days to demonstrate the applicability of the BMP in a real-world setting. Extension personnel developed the research and on-farm field days and did several presentations at each location. But without a doubt the stars during those field days were the dairy producers and farmers who hosted the research and demonstration events and who are already using or starting to use the techniques showcased. These pioneer producers are not only leading the way in using relatively new BMP in southern Idaho, they also share their experiences with other producers and with the academia so everybody around can learn from them. Topics addressed in each field day were, a: Dairy manure collection and composting, 20 attendees. b: Dairy manure land application, 10 attendees. c: Grapevine prunings and dairy manure composting, 50 attendees. d: Mortality and offal on-farm composting, 40 attendees.

On-farm manure collection and composting field day.

Some highlights from each project are: a. The dairy manure collection and composting field day demonstrated the operation and use of a vacuum manure collection system and a compost turner. Dairy managers and machinery operators shared their experiences, benefits and challenges related to the use of these two technologies. During the field day attendees also visited the whole manure management system of the dairy and were able to observe diverse manure management techniques. As a result of this project Extension personnel determined the necessity of generating educational programs for compost and manure management operators for dairy employees. A composting school in Spanish and English proposal was presented and a grant was obtained to develop and deliver them in 2013.

b. The dairy manure land application field day featured the demonstration of a floating manure storage pond mixer and pump, and a drag hose manure injection system. We also showed an injection tank that wasn’t operated during the demonstration. The floating pond mixer serves as lagoon mixer and pump. It mixes and pumps the manure through the drag hose system to the subsurface injector. This system dramatically reduces the time required to land apply liquid and slurried manures. It also significantly reduces ammonia and odor emissions to near background levels, as well as avoids runoff after applications. This project included research of emissions on the manure injection sites (see Chen L., et al. in this conference proceedings).

Demonstrating dairy manure subsurface injection using a drag hose system.

c. The grapevine prunings and dairy manure composting project involves research on the implications of increasing the carbon content of dairy manures using grapevine prunings and other carbon sources to retain more nitrogen in the compost, and how it varies among three diferent composting techniques. This project includes two field days, one during the project (2012), and another one at the end of it in 2013. The demonstration includes how to compost using mechanically turned windrows (common in Idaho), passive aerated, and forced aerated windrows (both very rarely used in Idaho). Another novelty in this project is that it aims to bring together dairy producers and fruit & crop producers, or landscaping insustry so they can combine their waste streams to produce a better compost and to reduce the environmental impact of each operation. Several producers of the diverse audience who attended showed interest in adopting some of the composting techniques presented during the field day.

On-farm composting methods featuring grape vine prunings and dairy manure compost

d. The mortality and offal on-farm composting project was located at a diversified sheep farm that includes sheep and goat dairy and cheese plant, meat lambs, and chickens. A forced aerated composting box was used to compost lamb offal, hives, lamb and chicken mortalities, and whey from the cheese plant. A very diversified audience attended the field day and the composting system generated a lot of interest. The farm owner was so pleased with the system that she created a second composter with materials she had on-hand to increase her composting capabilities and compost all year round. The producer stopped disposing of lamb offal, hives, and mortalities at the local landfill.

What Have We Learned?

On-farm field days are a great tool to demonstrate and encourage the application of otherwise seldom applied techniques. They also can serve a dual purpose of demonstration and research, allowing for quality data collection if designed properly. Farmers’ collaboration and full participation during all phases of the project is paramount and pays off by having a very enthusiastic and collaborative partner. Identiying progressive and pioneer producers that are already applying new BMP or are willing to take the risk is very important to develop this kind of on-farm experience. In general these individuals are also willing to share their knowledge, experience, and results with others to increase the adoption of such techiques. Having a producer hosting and presenting during the field day, at their facilities (as opposed to a dedicated research facility) generates great enthusiasm from other producers and helps to “break the ice” and bring everybody to a friendly conversation and exchange of ideas if properly facilitated.

Future Plans

On both projects, a. manure collection and composting and b. manure injection we will generate a series of videos to demonstrate the proper application of BMP, and educational printed material will also be published. Project c. grape prunings and manure composting is still going on and we will finish collecting data by mid 2013. A second field day will be offered and videos and printed educational material will be developed. Project d. will see an expansion with a mortality composter for dairy calves being installed at a dairy, and with a field day following after the first compost batch is ready. Additional programs are in the works; these programs incorporate the on-farm demonstration and research dual purpose and have high participation from the involved producers.


Mario E. de Haro-Marti, Extension Educator, Gooding County Extension Office, University of Idaho Extension.

Lide Chen, Waste Management Engineer

Howard Neibling, Extension Irrigation and Water Management Specialist

Mireille Chahine, Extension Dairy Specialist

Wilson Gray, District Extension Economist

Tony McCammon, Extension Educator

Ariel Agenbroad, Extension Educator

Sai Krishna Reddy Yadanaparthi, Graduate student

James Eells, Research Assistant. University of Idaho Extension.


Projects a. and b. were supported by a USDA-NRCS Conservation and Innovation Grant (CIG). Project c. was supported by a USDA-NRCS Idaho CIG. Project d. was supported by a University of Idaho USDA-SARE mini grant. We also want to thank Jennifer Miller at the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides for her help and support with projects c. and d. Finally, we want to thank all producers involved in these projects for their support and openess to work with us, and for their innovative spirit.


The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2013. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Denver, CO. April 1-5, 2013. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.