At Miner Institute, the research we do has important implications for the community as agriculture accounts for 17% of the land use in the Lake Champlain Basin. Our research has a societal benefit as we look at the intersection between agriculture and the environment, where water quality and health of the ecosystem meet agriculture production for commodities we all enjoy and consume. The research fields for my graduate research are planted with corn for silage, which is the most common source of forage for dairy cattle in the North East. The fields have poorly-drained soils, like much of the soils in the Lake Champlain Watershed, and require drainage improvements. Drainage improvements can be a combination of surface and subsurface improvements. My research focuses on two fields, one that is tile drained and another that is undrained. Tile drainage is a type of drainage that removes water from below the soil surface and can help maximize yields and improve field trafficability. The fields are monitored year-round for nutrient loading in surface and tile drainage. The nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorus have important implications for water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin, so it is essential to monitor the fields. As the climate changes, we may have more intense rainfall events, and it is crucial to understand where that water is going and what nutrients are being transported.
Back in November, I presented a poster on my research at the tri-society meeting (American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America) in San Antonio, TX. The conference attracted nearly 4000 attendees, including scientists, researchers, and students. My poster concentrated on phosphorus and nitrogen exports from the fields since the study began in March 2018, which is part of my thesis. The objective of the poster was to evaluate the impacts of tile drainage on-field hydrology and edge-of-field nutrient export from fields managed as corn for silage. I really enjoyed hearing presentations from researchers' work that I have read. Information ranged from forest soils to remote sensing, wetland information, cold weather implications, and tile drainage.
Student posters at the conference were judged on quality of presentation, originality of the work, and interpretation of the experimental results. In the Soil & Water Management & Conservation Division, my poster was among 20 other posters from students around the country. It earned a first place ranking for the division! Following the completion of my master's degree in late 2020, I hope to continue working in the environmental water quality field. I would love to have a job where I am working with society and the environment, ensuring a healthy and productive ecosystem.
-- Leanna Thalmann