Spring 2015
In This Issue
Know the Language
extrawaterCover Crop- A type of plant grown to suppress weeds, help build and improve soil, and control diseases and pests. Cover crops are also called "green manure" and "living mulches."

ecosensBuffer Strip - An area of vegetation located downslope of disturbed soil, working lands or developments that filters the runoff water from those areas.


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Nonpoint Source Pollution

 Adaptive Management Plan


Threatened and Endangered Species Matrix Addition

Starting in 2017, the model that assists in determining priority watersheds for the state's Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Plan will include the presence of threatened or endangered species.


The addition of the 13th category in the watershed prioritization matrix comes after participants at the September 2014 Nonpoint Source Pollution Stakeholder Meeting approved its inclusion and asked a workgroup to determine how factors should be weighted. Individual categories and subcategories included in the model in the past have been assigned weights ranging from 0 to 10.


The workgroup concluded their efforts in January 2015 and recommended that the presence of threatened or endangered species in a watershed receive the full 10 points available for the category. If there are no threatened or endangered species present in a watershed, the category would be assigned zero points. 


The 12 categories used to determine the 2011-2016 priority watersheds for nonpoint source pollution include:


1. Waterbody Impairment

2. Designated Use Impact

3. Biotic Impacts

4. Potential Human Exposure

5. Urban Suburban Population

6. Impervious Surface

7. Economic Activity

8. Cropland

9. Livestock and Pasture

10. Unpaved Roads

11. Forestry

12. Priority of a Bordering State.  


Categories in the watershed prioritization matrix have changed over time since the first management plan in the 2000s based on feedback by stakeholders at an annual meeting hosted by Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. Learn more about the existing 12 categories by clicking here.


Category 13 will be added to the watershed prioritization matrix for the development of Arkansas' 2017-2022 Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Plan. The Public Policy Center at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture will support ANRC in the plan's development, as it has in past years, with assistance from stakeholder groups.  


NPS Milestones Update and EPA Approval

Short-term milestones for Arkansas' Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program have been updated in the state's 2011-2016 Management Plan after review and feedback from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA approved the new milestones in August 2014, and the 2011-2016 plan has been updated online to reflect the changes. 

You can find the new milestones in Appendix E of the NPS Pollution Management Plan here.
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Watershed Spotlight
 Bayou Bartholomew Watershed

The land that occupies this long watershed mirrors many of Arkansas' different geographic characteristics - rolling forested hills in the western portions and flat farmland lying in the ancient floodplain of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. The 1,418-acre watershed includes the Bayou Bartholomew River, the longest bayou in the United States and once a major transportation route for the Delta. 
Communities in Jefferson, Cleveland, Drew, Chicot, Lincoln, Desha and Ashley counties make up this watershed. Most of the city of Pine Bluff drains into the watershed, which has seen an accelerated decline in population in recent years. For example, Jefferson County's population declined 8.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, and Chicot County saw a 16.4 percent drop. 


Water quality is impacted in much of this watershed by nonpoint source pollution generated by row crop agriculture, according to the state's 2011-2016 Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Plan. Nearly 22 percent of the watershed's land area is cultivated in row crops, primarily rice and soybeans. The majority of land, however, remains forested. Silt and turbidity are consistently very high, although past analysis has seen a decline in turbidity in the Bayou Bartholomew River. Mercury and phosphorus have also been a concern in the watershed, as have been pathogens, total dissolved solids, chlorides and low dissolved oxygen.


Restoring and preserving the watershed has been the focus of many. The Bayou Bartholomew Alliance was created in 1995 to restore and preserve the river. Projects undertaken along the bayou itself have included water quality monitoring, planting of trees for buffers, restoring streambanks, trash removal, removing log jams and building boat ramps to encourage public use of the river. The alliance's long-time president, Curtis Merrell, passed away in December 2014. 


At a March 2015 water quality stakeholder forum hosted by the Public Policy Center, participants said that sediment related to agriculture remained a priority to address in the watershed. They identified the use of cover crops over the winter as an important method to prevent soil loss that leads to sediment ending up in local waterways.

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Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Keeping Soil in Place with Cover Crops


Winter pea, crimson clover and cereal rye. Photo provided by Natural Resources Conservation Services.


Cover crops are typically planted between rotations of income-producing crops, but they can also be planted at the same time. They are receiving more attention these days from farmers and others who are interested in improved soil health and preventing erosion and water pollution. 


When it comes to water quality, these crops cover farm fields and vegetable gardens that otherwise might be bare during the winter. They also have been found to break up compacted soil, which makes it easier for water to be absorbed and retained in place. 

Cover crops serve many purposes: 

  • improve soil health
  • supply nitrogen 
  • reduce leaching of nutrients and pesticides
  • reduce erosion
  • mitigate pest damage 
  • attract beneficial insects 

Because of this attention, many efforts are underway to better understand cover crop effectiveness and University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture faculty are developing a fact sheet on cover crops that will be released through the Cooperative Extension Service. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is also working on a list of preferred cover crops for Arkansas that should be released this summer. 


If you're interested in cover crops, keep in mind that it's critical to match your cover crop to region, soil type and crop mix among other factors. Certain types of cover crops can invite plant disease or insects that you don't want to deal with.


The most common cover crops in Arkansas are cereal rye, triticale, radishes, Austrian winter peas, clover and vetch, said John Lee, an agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Arkansas. Land owners should stay away from planting annual ryegrass as a cover crop, he said.


"We're experiencing some herbicide resistance weed issues with ryegrass in Arkansas," Lee said.  

Who to call? 

If you have a question about cover crops, contact Trent Roberts at the University of Arkansas by calling 501-575-6752 or e-mailing tlrobert@uark.edu.


Natural Resources Conservation Service offices are also a good source for information on cover crops for farmers who are interested in participating in the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that provides financial and technical assistance to producers.


Additional information

PowerPoints presented at the Southern Agricultural Cover Crops Workshop in October 2014 can be found online at the Arkansas Association of Conservation District's website

The next cover crop workshop is scheduled for Oct. 27-28, 2015 at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Speakers typically discuss cover crops, soil health and irrigation water management.

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Best Management Practices to Put in Action!

Learn about Best Management Practices from Colin Massey, Extension's Washington County Water Quality Extension Agent by clicking on the video to the right. He shares information about how to protect water quality and tips for you to take action. 
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Upcoming Events 



June 2 - Connecting Families & Nature Conference, Branson Convention Center, Branson, Mo.


Sept. 23 - 24 - Nonpoint Source Pollution Stakeholder & Project Review Meeting, UA Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, Little Rock. 


Oct. 18 - 23 - EPA Region 6 Stormwater Conference, Hot Springs Convention Center, Hot Springs.

Oct. 27 - 28 Southern Agricultural Cover Crops Workshop, Arkansas State University Convocation Center, Jonesboro.
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This newsletter is produced as part of a grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, paid for by Section 319(h) Clean Water Act funds.
 Issue 2, 2015

Cover photo: It's planting season. A farmer prepares a corn field in St. Francis County on March 31, 2015. Photo by Kevin Lawson of  the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.