Building wetlands deters runoff

Research from KU suggests that building wetlands is the most cost-effective method of controlling runoff.

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July 12, 2021 - 8:02 AM

LAWRENCE — The most cost-effective method of responding to chemical and sediment runoff from intense agriculture production is development of large-scale wetlands in watersheds feeding rivers and large streams, a University of Kansas researcher said in a new study.

Findings of research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicated the most effective environmental intervention should be concentrated at the watershed level rather than on individual farms. Conclusions were dawn from computer modeling of the Sueur River Basin in Minnesota, which is subject to runoff from corn and soybean fields.

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus can wash from fields and into waterways by rain or melting snow and can leach through the soil to groundwater. Typically, a farmer in Kansas or other Midwest state striving to deter soil loss and protect water quality would plant cover crops, reduce tillage, adopt high-precision fertilizer application or add modest water retention ponds.

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