‘We don’t give farmers enough credit for conservation’

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When the University of Arkansas approached cotton, corn, rice and soybean producer Steve Stevens about allowing his southeast Arkansas farrm to be one of several Discovery Farms around the state, Stevens’ response was less than enthusiastic.

But once Stevens saw the numbers on the amount of water and nitrogen coming on and leaving his farm, he warmed to the subject, says Mike Daniels, professor, Extension water quality for the Agriculture Division at the University of Arkansas. Daniels was a speaker at the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force spring meeting in Little Rock, Ark.

"Steve was reluctant at first, but some folks like Debbie Moreland (executive director of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts) told him 'We really need for you to do this,'" said Daniels. "Once he began to see the kind of numbers we were generating, he became very interested in what was happening on his farm."

Daniels and his team of researchers did more than stick a test tube in the water running off Stevens farm. He and the University's partners in the nutrient runoff reduction project made an extensive investment in equipment and manpower to provide an almost continuous readout of the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the runoff water leaving specific fields on the farm.

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