ARKANSAS
DISCOVERY
FARMS
PROGRAM

ARKANSAS
DISCOVERY
FARMS
PROGRAM

ARKANSAS
DISCOVERY
FARMS
PROGRAM

ARKANSAS
DISCOVERY
FARMS
PROGRAM

ARKANSAS
DISCOVERY
FARMS
PROGRAM

Quick Information

Andrew N. Sharpley
Phone: 479-575-5721
Email: sharpley@uark.edu
Michael Daniels
Phone: 501-671-2281
Email: mdaniels@uaex.edu

There are 12 farms across Arkansas, who have volunteered to be a part of the Arkansas Discovery Farms Program. Each farm represents a production system important to the agricultural economy of the State and each has unique characteristics and conservation challenges.

Farm List

Stakeholder Involvement Committee

Member

Affiliation

Website

 Terry Dabbs (Chair) Arkansas Farm Bureau http://www.arfb.com/
Andrew Wargo (Liaison) Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts http://aracd.org/
Doug Akin Arkansas Forestry Association http://www.arkforests.org/
Brad Doyle Arkansas Soybean Association http://www.arkansassoybean.com/
Jennifer James USA Rice Federation http://www.usarice.com/
Adam McClung Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association http://www.arbeef.org/
Gene Pharr Poultry Producers  
Tim Snell Arkansas Nature Conservancy http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/arkansas/
Dennis Sternberg Arkansas Rural Water Association http://arkansasruralwater.org/
Frederick Simon (invited) Arkansas Dairy Producers Association http://www.dfamilk.com/
Jon Vaught (invited) Arkansas Pork Producers Association http://arpork.com/

 

Technical Committee

Member

Affiliation

Website

Adrian Baber (Chair) Arkansas Natural Resources Commission http://www.anrc.arkansas.gov/
Debbie Moreland (Liaison) Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts http://aracd.org/
Bob Blanz Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality https://www.adeq.state.ar.us/
Dewayne Goldman Monsanto Inc. https://monsanto.com/
Andrew Grobmyer Arkansas Agricultural Council http://agcouncil.net/
Jamey Johnson Arkansas State Plant Board http://www.aad.arkansas.gov/arkansas-state-plant-board
Billy Justus U.S. Geological Survey http://www.usgs.gov/
Joe Krystofik U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service https://www.fws.gov/arkansas-es/
Cliff Snyder International Plant Nutrition Institute http://www.ipni.net/
Evan Teague Arkansas Farm Bureau http://www.arfb.com/
Lewis Wray Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission http://www.aad.arkansas.gov/arkansas-livestock-and-poultry-commission
Teri Nehls Natural Resource Conservation Service http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/national/home/

All links to external sites open in a new window. You may return to the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station(AAES) web site by closing this window when you are finished. We do Arkansas Discovery Farm Program not guarantee the accuracy of the information or the accessibility for people with disabilities listed at any external site.

Links to commercial sites are provided for information and convenience only. Inclusion of sites does not imply AAES’s approval of their product or service to the exclusion of others that may be similar, nor does it guarantee or warrant the standard of the products or service offered.

The mention of any commercial product in this web site does not imply its endorsement by the AAES over other products not named, nor does the omission imply that they are not satisfactory.

ARDF In the News

Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative

Known as “America’s River,” the Mississippi River is North America’s largest river, flowing over 2,300 miles through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the centerpiece of the second largest watershed in the world. The watershed not only provides drinking water, food, industry, and recreation for millions of people, it also hosts a globally significant migratory flyway and home for over 325 bird species.

Through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), NRCS and partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Mississippi River basin. 

NRCS has identified the Mississippi River basin as a top priority due to water quality concerns, primarily related to the effects of nutrient loading on the health of local water bodies and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.”

(above excerpt from NRCS website ©2017)

 

ARDF Involvement in MRBI

By their design, Arkansas Discovery Farms (ADF) Program is uniquely positioned to contribute useful information to the Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI). The central goal of the ADF project centers on the promotion of economically viable yet environmentally sound farming systems. Documentation of such production systems is currently being achieved on the Arkansas Discovery Farms Program using whole-field monitoring systems, which is a voluntary monitoring protocol also specified by the MRBI.

Arkansas Discovery Farms Program and the MRBI

By their design, Arkansas Discovery Farms Program is uniquely positioned to contribute useful information to the Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI). The central goal of the ADF project centers on the promotion of economically viable yet environmentally sound farming systems. Documentation of such production systems is currently being achieved on the Arkansas Discovery Farms Program using whole-field monitoring systems, which is a voluntary monitoring protocol also specified by the MRBI.

For more information on the history of the MRBI.

For more on Arkansas Discovery Farms Program involvement in the MRBI.

What is an Arkansas Discovery Farms Program (1M pdf)

Arkansas Discovery Farms Program is privately owned farms that have volunteered to help with on-farm research regarding farming’s impact on the environment. On these farms, we are quantifying the benefits of conservation practices on soil and water quality. Most importantly, the Program is empowering farmers to proactively address environmental concerns.

 

ARDF Guiding Principles

Arkansas Discovery Farms Program strives to identify on-farm conservation issues and potential solutions to agricultural sustainability challenges. Its’ main goal is to document sustainable and viable farming systems that remain cost-effective in an environmentally sound manner, based on four cornerstones; 1) sound science, 2) unbiased research, 3) stakeholder driven transparency, and 4) strong partnerships.

 

ARDF Expectations (2M pdf) 

Arkansas Discovery Farms Program is a science-based effort to monitor, demonstrate, and validate approaches to achieve environmental and agricultural sustainability on real, work¬ing farms in Arkansas. The role of Arkansas Discovery Farms Program is to determine, through collaboration, with farmers, scientists, and natural resource managers, how to implement management recommendations and to determine impacts to the operation of the farm and natural resources.

 

Arkansas Discovery Farms Program Methodology

State-of-the-art equipment is used to monitor soil and water quality as influenced by farm management and conservation practices. An overview of the field methods used ensures scientific integrity is provided along with a breakdown of the analytical processes that soil and water samples undergo.

 

Arkansas Discovery Farms Program Protocol – 2015

“Arkansas Discovery Farms Program: documenting water quality benefits of on-farm conservation management and empowering farmers.” This paper published by Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica in 2015, provides an overview of the current Arkansas Discovery Farms Program around the State of Arkansas and discusses the Program’s guiding principles, research objectives, and preliminary findings.

 

Gully Prevention

Gully repair is expensive and labor intensive. Understanding the forces behind their formation can inform management decisions that will prevent their formation. This bulletin addresses gully formation and offers preventative measures a landowner can take safeguard against their formation as well as highlighting strategies for repair if gullies have already formed.

 

Benefits of Soil Organic Matter

The amount of organic matter found in soil is a good indicator of a soils physical, chemical, and biological condition. Building up the content of soil organic matter provides many agro-economic benefits. As it takes many years to increase soil organic matter, it is beneficial to implement management strategies that enhance the preservation and creation of soil organic matter.

 

Manure Testing (1M pdf) 

Numerous livestock producers rely on the surface application of livestock or poultry manure to satisfy the nutritional requirements of pastures and hay meadows. Thus, manure testing to determine the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus, along with other essential plant nutrients in your manure can help its effective use as a fertilizer as well as limiting the risk of nutrient loss in runoff waters that might ultimately impair the use of receiving waters.

 

Soil Testing (1M pdf)

Pasture and crop productivity is dependent on a soil’s ability to provide adequate nutrients for plant growth. Soil testing gives producers the information needed to ensure that crops will have the nutrients needed to achieve desired yield goals. It can also possibly save money by reducing unnecessary applications.

 

Additional Publications

Program Description

 

The Arkansas Discovery Farms Program is supported by a host of sponsors and industry stakeholders who ensure research addresses the needs of Arkansas farmers in a proactive manner. Arkansas Discovery Farms Program is designed to operate for five to seven years during which time water quality analysis and data reveal the effectiveness of conservation practices employed at each site.

Arkansas Discovery Farms Program is privately owned businesses on which water quality research is being conducted. Currently, there are 12 Arkansas Discovery Farms established throughout the state. Production systems selected for study are both crop and livestock based and represent the diversity of Arkansas agriculture. The overarching goal of the Arkansas Discovery Farms program is to determine the effectiveness of water and soil conservation practices utilized on working farms.

At each site, conservation practices selected for evaluation are based upon the interests and wishes of the farm owner and may coincide with regional water or soil quality issues common to many producers in the area. Research is coordinated by faculty from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and is conducted in collaboration with federal and state agencies promoting conservation of our natural resources.

Farms

Bell Fam

Forrest CityRice, Corn, and Soybean with cover crop rotation (Saint Francis County)

 

The Ellis Bell farm is a row crop farm that is located in the L’Anguille River Watershed which was part of the NRCS Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) funding. The effect of cover crops will be studied to determine the effects on water quality and soil health.

Approximately 80 acres are being managed with cover crops planted on half of the field and no cover crops as a control on the other half. The field has two drainage pipes and associated sampling sites: one for each half of the field. This allows for a comparison of sediment and a nutrient runoff between the halves with and without cover crops. The field has been previously land-leveled to improve irrigation water management.

Mr. Bell allowed Mike Hamilton (NRCS/Extension Irrigation Education Area Specialist) to visit his farm and use a flowmeter to measure how many gallons per minute his well will produce when the pump is running at a specific RPM. This information is being used to create a customized irrigation water management plan for the farm.

Conyers Farm

Pine Bluff – Rice, Corn, and Soybean with cover crop rotation (Jefferson County)

 

The Lawrence Conyer farm is a row crop operation with rice, corn, and soybeans, and will be implementing cover crops in the rotation. The Reginald 

These subwatersheds are Cousart Bayou-Little Cypress Bayou, Upper Deep Bayou, and Lower Deep Bayou. The NWQI offers assistance to landowners who want to improve water quality and aquatic habitats in priority watersheds with impaired streams. The NWQI area encompasses 62,473 acres in Jefferson and Lincoln County and was listed as impaired due to high levels of total phosphorus and sediment concentration Bayou Bartholomew’s tributaries.

Two water monitoring stations have been set up on opposite sides of the field where the water drains off of the field. This will allow the water leaving the field to be collected and analyzed for sediment and nutrient concentrations. Approximately 40 acres of the field will be planted in cover crops. The remainder of the field will serve as a control (by not having any cover crops planted). The results between the side with cover crops and the side without will be evaluated to see what effect cover crops have on water quality.

The landowner has been working with NRCS to improve nutrient management and irrigation water management on the farm.

Clements Farm

Cherry Valley – Soybean-wheat-rice rotation (Cross County)

 

Two farms were chosen at the Cherry Valley site offering evaluation of contrasting management practices on the same types of crops in similar environments. The Danny and Matt Clements farm (about 1,600 acres) east of the L’Anguille River and the Mike Wood farm (about 2,700 acres) located immediately across the river on the west side are both row crop operations. Both farms rotate rice and soybeans and are in the L’Anguille Watershed in Cross County. This area has recently been declared a Critical Groundwater Area by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

The Clements’ use conventional tillage and water management, whereas, on the Woods farm, switchgrass buffers have been established between the river and fields via CRP planning. Because fields in the study region are not candidates for leveling due to the cost and the risk of exposing underlying soil horizons detrimental to crop production, flood irrigation is still the preferred irrigation method for soybeans. The Clements site uses groundwater as an irrigation source, whereas the Wood farm uses a combination of water sources (relift from the L’Anguille and wells).

Discovery Farm research will include monitoring runoff, nutrients, and sediment from one field under traditional tillage management on the Clement farm and from two fields on the Wood farm, one of which uses traditional flood irrigation for both rice and soybean and drains through a switch-grass border. The other is managed using furrow irrigation during the soybean rotation. The runoff will eventually be captured by a new tailwater recovery system and reservoir on both farms.

Dabbs Farm

Stuttgart – Rice, Soybean, and Corn rotation (Arkansas County)

 

The Terry Dabbs farm is a row crop operation (about 1,500 acres), concentrating on rice, soybean, and corn rotations and is located in the Bayou Meto Watershed in Arkansas County.  The Dabbs farm has been in a Critical Groundwater Area for more than a decade.

In contrast to water management at the Cross County site, this farm has nearly all fields land-leveled and a tailwater recovery system collects all runoff water from this farm and returns it to the irrigation reservoir for re-use. This farm uses only surface water for irrigation as opposed to the Cross County site.

We are monitoring water use and water quality (nutrients and sediment) on four fields with different cropping rotations and management, which include rice grown on zero-grade, rice grown on unleveled ground (control), rice grown on a precision-leveled field, and corn grown on a precision-leveled field. This combination of treatments allows us to compare different water management schemes, as well as compare water use of rice and corn at a field scale. We are also monitoring the quantity and quality of recovery water immediately before it re-enters the reservoir.

Haak Farm

Gentry – Dairy operation (Benton County)

 

The Haak farm is a 240-acre rotationally-grazed dairy farm in the Lower Neosho Watershed.

The Haak Farm is a newly constructed dairy operation, which milks approximately 140 cows. In addition, there are 120 beef cows and 40 stockers on the farm. On this farm, we will work with the farmer to establish legumes into the pastures in an attempt to decrease nitrogen fertilizer needs.

Currently, pastures are a mix of rye and wheat over bermudagrass. The farm plan is to divide farm pastures into 11 paddocks and rotationally graze them. A grassed walkway will be established through the middle of the pastures to decrease the distance cows will have to walk to get to the milking parlor. The longer-term plan is to adopt a rotational grazing plan with collaboration from NRCS.

We will monitor soil nutrient status and soil health with ongoing farm management over a period of five years to determine the long-term benefits of rotational grazing on soil productivity. In addition, we will passively monitor nutrient flows in the leach field that treats liquid waste material from the milking parlor.

Marley Farm 

Lincoln – Poultry operation (Washington County)

 

This poultry farm is increasing the number of poultry houses on the farm located in the Illinois River Watershed.

Under the new CAFO regulations, EPA is now concerned with “discharge” waters interacting with litter spilled during clean-out, litter stored temporarily uncovered during cleanout, and dust that accumulates in front of exhaust fans used for ventilation of houses.

The Marley farm has 6 broiler houses located at one site. Runoff flows from two houses flows to a farm pond and from the other four, across a pasture and into an ephemeral creek which is a tributary of the White River.

We are monitoring runoff from four poultry houses that flow into a 3-acre pond and from two poultry houses where runoff flows through a pasture (cut for hay) into an ephemeral creek, connected to the White River. Monitoring stations will quantify nutrient and sediment loadings entering the pond and pasture before reaching the creek.

These data will be used to determine quantities of nutrients and sediment that may be lost from around the poultry houses and to quantify the nutrient and sediment trapping efficiencies of the pond and pasture.

Construction at the Marley Farm

 

 

Maus Farm

Atkins – Corn and Soybean row crop farm (Pope County)

 

The Maus farm is a 940-acre row-crop farm in the MRBI focus watershed of Point Remove – Lake Conway, in Pope County.    There are about 200 acres of wheat, 240 acres of rice, 200 acres of corn, and 400 acres of soybean.

Here we are monitoring runoff from four fields that have management ranging from the cover crop, no cover crop, conservation tillage, and conventional tillage under a rotation of corn and soybean.  These fields were land-leveled in 2016 and 2017, a relift pump installed, and improved irrigation water management put in place.  This allows us to compare the water-use efficiency of the improved and prior irrigation system.

 Location of Discovery Farm fields in the Point Remove – Lake Conway Watershed, near Atkins, AR.    

Moore Farm

Elkins – Poultry and beef operation (Washington County)

 

This farm is a poultry – beef grazing operation in the Beaver Lake – Upper White River Watershed.  There are 10 poultry houses, with 1,200 acres of pasture and about 1,000 acres of woodland.

The Moore Farm is also in the Illinois River Watershed and was funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Here we are working with a poultry producer who built four new poultry houses, doubling the number on the farm. We worked with the farmer to design the new houses with a low nutrient footprint and install BMPs such as grassed waterways and larger concrete pads at the house entrance.

Water quality monitoring on the farm and cost analysis of each BMP will allow us to determine the effectiveness of each practice, in terms of $’s per pound of nutrient decrease.

Morrow Farm 

Wedington – Beef operation (Washington County)

 

This farm is a beef rotational grazing operation in the Illinois River Watershed, and our efforts there are funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Here we are focusing on the benefits of rotational grazing on soil health and the effect of re-establishing a riparian corridor along a stream on the farm to mitigate nutrient transport. Costs of BMP implementation will be estimated and evaluated in terms of economic feasibility and efficiency (which practice or practices provide the most reduction at least cost).

   

Stevens Farm

Dumas – Cotton-soybean-corn row crop farm (Desha County)

 

The Steve Steven’s farm is a row crop operation (about 1,500 acres), concentrating on cotton and corn and is located in the Bayou Macon Watershed in Desha County. 

The Bayou Macon watershed, located in Southeastern Arkansas and Northeastern Louisiana, appeared on the 2006 State of Arkansas’ 303d list as being impaired for aquatic habitat by turbidity caused by sediment/siltation from intensive row crop agriculture. The Bayou Macon Watershed was one of the watersheds approved by NRCS as a Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) project area.

We have worked with Steve Stevens to establish a Discovery Farm on his property to evaluate the benefit of conservation tillage on nutrient and sediment runoff.

This project will be considered a success if the conservation tillage decreases runoff, nutrient and sediment loss in runoff from cotton-corn rotations and stream ecological improvement in the Bayou Macon Watershed. An additional measure of success will be the adoption of conservation tillage by other farmers in the watershed project area.

 

 

Taylor Farm

Pine Bluff – Rice-corn-soybean with cover crop rotation (Jefferson County)

 

The Reginald Taylor farm will be implementing cover crops with their rice, corn, and soybean rotation.  Both of these farms are located in the Bayou Bartholomew Watershed in subwatersheds that qualified for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

A 12-acre field will be treated with cover crops and the 18-acre field across the road will be used as a control without cover crops. Both of these fields have water monitoring stations where the water drains off the fields. The results will be used to evaluate the effect that cover crops have on water quality.

The landowner is working with NRCS to improve nutrient management and irrigation water management on the farm.

Wood Farm

Cherry Valley – Soybean-wheat-rice rotation (Cross County)

 

The Mike Wood farm (about 2,700 acres). Part of the funding for this is through the NRCS Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI).  This area was recently declared a Critical Groundwater Area by ANRC.

Two farms were chosen at the Cherry Valley site offering evaluation of contrasting management practices on the same types of crops in similar environments. The Danny and Matt Clements farm (about 1,600 acres) east of the L’Anguille River and the Mike Wood farm (about 2,700 acres) located immediately across the river on the west side are both row crop operations. Both farms rotate rice and soybeans and are in the L’Anguille Watershed in Cross County. This area has recently been declared a Critical Groundwater Area by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

The Clements’ use conventional tillage and water management, whereas, on the Woods farm, switchgrass buffers have been established between the river and fields via CRP planning. Because fields in the study region are not candidates for leveling due to the cost and the risk of exposing underlying soil horizons detrimental to crop production, flood irrigation is still the preferred irrigation method for soybeans. The Clements site uses groundwater as an irrigation source, whereas the Wood farm uses a combination of water sources (relift from the L’Anguille and wells).

Discovery Farm research will include monitoring runoff, nutrients, and sediment from one field under traditional tillage management on the Clement farm and from two fields on the Wood farm, one of which uses traditional flood irrigation for both rice and soybean and drains through a switch-grass border. The other is managed using furrow irrigation during the soybean rotation. The runoff will eventually be captured by a new tailwater recovery system and reservoir on both farms.

 

Sponsors

United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service
Walton Family Foundation Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board
Bever Water District
Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Board State of Arkansas
monstanto