Drones help researchers monitor High Plains wheat — Texas A&M

Drones are being used to monitor weekly growth on the Texas A&M AgriLife Research wheat variety plots near Bushland. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Here’s the release from Texas A&M (Kay Ledbetter):

The Texas A&M AgriLife Research dryland wheat variety nursery near Bushland is being monitored weekly by drone flights, offering wheat breeders a chance to see changes on a more real-time basis.

Dr. Jackie Rudd, AgriLife Research wheat breeder in Amarillo, said the dryland wheat variety nursery typically has varieties yielding an average of 30 bushels per acre, but some years that can fall to 8-10 bushels per acre due to drought and other environmental conditions.

“This year is undetermined,” Rudd said. “But it looks like it is out of moisture to survive on.”

He said the dryland nursery was planted Oct. 11 into good moisture and it came up and really looked good, but the rain shut off and “we haven’t had rain since then.”

The dryland variety nursery is mirrored across the state with locations in the Rolling Plains, South Plains and further south, all evaluating a large number of different genetic sets to determine how they will do throughout the Great Plains.

“We take advantage of what environments we have,” he said. “It’s been very dry this year, matching close to 2011 when we yielded 8-12 bushels per acre. Some varieties, however, yielded 18 bushels per acre that year. That’s what we are looking at, comparing the genetics here and throughout the state under multiple locations and different conditions.”

Rudd said they have been monitoring the situation to see the difference in color and growth rate, which has varied with how they started in the fall. Varieties with a good root system had a good stand establishment, got their root down and survived through the winter quite well.

“They are surviving entirely on subsoil moisture at this time,” he said. “But the more we dig down and check, there’s not much moisture under it at all. A week of this hot, windy weather, and it won’t be a pretty sight.”

Dryland wheat is suffering from no moisture since it has been planted. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

He said some don’t have much of a root system left. Some might have had roots earlier but those have almost disappeared due to the dry weather.

“Jointing and stem elongation started last week, and things were looking pretty good,” Rudd said. “But when I was walking the field taking notes last week, I kicked some plants and they literally fell over.

The roots of dryland wheat in the Texas A&M AgriLife Research variety plots dried up. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

“Many plants are not rooted at the crown. There may be some variety differences, but it seems to be uniform across the dryland nursery and several nearby dryland wheat fields. My first thought was an insect or a pathogen, but I really think that it is just dry.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this – a decent looking plant with almost no crown roots,” Rudd said. “An observation by our crop physiologist, Dr. Qingwu Xue, is that the plant is surviving on the seedling roots and it was just too dry to form crown roots.

“The seedling roots can get the wheat seedling off to a good start and continue to grow down to deep soil for water uptake. However, a root system without crown roots is very difficult to sustain a large developing above-ground plant.”

Some varieties, however, appear to be doing better than others, Rudd said.

“We need to evaluate these 5,000 plots one at a time,” he said. “Our normal process is to walk around here and go plot by plot and write in the book what we are getting. This year we’ve had 16 flights over the plots using UAVs.”

He said they are using the flights to visually measure how fast the stand established in the fall, how well it did when the cold temperatures hit – some lost a lot of leaf area while others kept right on growing — and the spring green-up.

Drones help researchers monitor leaf color and growth rate between varieties. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

“Some varieties started greening two weeks ago [March 12, 2018] and some started last week and some are really just now starting to green up,” Rudd said.

“With drones flying over weekly, we can actually plot that through the year, the biomass or the leaf area collection, and measure the color differences with the camera and also spectral reflectance and what the greenness pattern really is,” he said. “We are measuring by ground and by air, and that’s very important information we can get in a short amount of time by drone.”

To walk this dryland field, it would take three to four hours of walking and writing notes in the notebook, Rudd said. With the drone, it takes 10-15 minutes.

“It’s a big change from having to walk the field, although we are still doing that now to ground-truth and make sure everything the drones are recording is correct,” he said. “But I’m gaining more confidence in the drone information, and I think it’s going to give us efficiency and a lot more data to make our selections. We can see plant development through the year and adjust what groups of material we are going to focus on at harvest.”

Rudd said the same breeding lines growing in the dryland nursery are also in the irrigated nursery, which is on track for yields over 100 bushels per acre.

“Comparing yields and drone data from the dryland plots with those collected from irrigated plots will provide an outstanding look at drought resistance,” he said. “Once harvest comes, we will know for sure how valuable the data we have been collecting really is, and most importantly this year, to visualize drought tolerance in each individual breeding line and variety.”

Just Five Things About GRACE Follow-On, launch today

Artist’s illustration of the GRACE-FO satellites in orbit. Credits: NASA

Here’s the release from NASA:

Scheduled to launch no earlier than May 22, the twin satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a collaboration between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), will continue the work of monitoring changes in the world’s water cycle and surface mass, which was so well performed by the original GRACE mission. There are far more than five things to say about this amazing new-old mission; but here are a few favorite facts.

1 Percent (or Less)

GRACE-FO tracks liquid and frozen water by measuring month-to-month changes in Earth’s gravitational pull very precisely. More than 99 percent of our planet’s gravitational pull doesn’t change from one month to the next, because it represents the mass of the solid Earth itself. But a tiny fraction of Earth’s mass is constantly on the move, and it is mostly water: Rain is falling, dew is evaporating, ocean currents are flowing, ice is melting and so on. GRACE-FO’s maps of regional variations in gravity will show us where that small fraction of overall planetary mass is moving every month.

2 Satellites, One Instrument

Unlike other Earth-observing satellites, which carry instruments that observe some part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the two GRACE-FO satellites themselves are the instrument. The prime instrument measures the tiny changes in the distance between the pair, which arise from the slightly varying gravitational forces of the changing mass below. Researchers produce monthly maps of water and mass change by combining this information with GPS measurements of exactly where the satellites are and accelerometer measurements of other forces acting upon the spacecraft, such as atmospheric drag.

3 Gravity Missions, Including One on the Moon

The same measurement concept used on GRACE and GRACE-FO was also used to map the Moon’s gravity field. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) twins orbited the moon for about a year, allowing insights into science questions such as what Earth’s gravitational pull contributed to the Moon’s lopsided shape. The intentionally short-lived GRAIL satellites were launched in September 2011 and decommissioned in December 2012.

4 Thousand-Plus Customers Served

GRACE observations have been used in more than 4,300 research papers to date — a very high number for a single Earth science mission. Most papers have multiple coauthors, meaning the real number of scientist-customers could be higher, but we chose a conservative estimate. As GRACE-FO extends the record of water in motion, there are sure to be more exciting scientific discoveries to come.

5 Things We Didn’t Know Before GRACE

Here’s a list-within-a-list of five findings from those 4,300-plus papers. Watch the GRACE-FO website to learn what the new mission is adding to this list.

• Melting ice sheets and dwindling aquifers are contributing to Earth’s rotational wobbles.

• A few years of heavy precipitation can cause so much water to be stored on land that global sea level rise slows or even stops briefly.

• A third of the world’s underground aquifers are being drained faster than they can be replenished.

• In the Amazon, small fires below the tree canopy may destroy more of the forest than deforestation does — implying that climatic conditions such as drought may be a greater threat to the rainforest than deforestation is.

• Australia seesaws up and down by two or three millimeters each year because of changes to Earth’s center of mass that are caused by the movement of water.

Bonus: The Fine Print

JPL manages the GRACE-FO mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, under the direction of the Earth Systematic Missions Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft were built by Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany, under subcontract to JPL. GFZ contracted GRACE-FO launch services from Iridium. GFZ has subcontracted mission operations to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which operates the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

Pagosa Springs: #Geothermal Resource Workshop set for May 23, 2018

Photo credit: Colorado.com

From the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (Sally High) via The Pagosa Sun:

Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) welcomes Colorado School of Mines (CSM) and Colorado Geologic Survey back to Pagosa Springs this week.

CSM’s seventh Geophysics Field Camp builds on previous years’ research into Archuleta County’s geothermal plumbing.

The GGP invites the public to a scientific retrospective of collected data and updated interpretations of the local geothermal resource on
Wednesday, May 23. The workshop is at the Archuleta County CSU Extension building from 6 to 8 p.m. The GGP workshop contains two presentations.

Dr. Andrei Swidinsky and Stephen Cuttler of CSM will present a seven-year retrospective of the geophysical data collected by CSM students. Each year’s field camp adds to our understanding of the underground structure of our geothermal aquifer.

Dr. Paul Morgan is senior geo- thermal geologist at Colorado Geological Survey. In 2017, Morgan published Origins and Geothermal Potential of Thermal Springs in Archuleta County, including Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA (Revisited). The paper was first presented at the international Geothermal Resource Council’s 2017 conference. The Archuleta County public can hear Morgan’s revised interpretations at the GGP workshop.
The GGP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operating an educational park in downtown Pagosa Springs. The nonprofit park demonstrates geothermal direct energy use, year-round horticulture and environmental awareness. Twenty-first century water conservation and geothermal potential are priorities of GGP’s mission.

GGP’s Education Dome is busy with student and volunteer activity, and the Community Garden Dome and Innovation Dome are being constructed. Pagosa Springs Centennial Park’s Riverwalk is the site of the GGP project.

There is no charge for the GGP’s geothermal resource update work- shop, although donations to the nonprofit are accepted. The public is welcome.

Canon City film screening: “The Arkansas River: Leadville to Lamar,” June 1, 2018

The Arkansas River, at the Crowley County line. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From the Pep Workgroup, Arkansas River Basin via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Fremont Adventure Recreation and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District will host a free screening of “The Arkansas River: Leadville to Lamar,” at 6 p.m. June 1 at Canon City High School, 1313 College Ave.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion with Tim Payne, Fremont County Commissioner; Mannie Colon of Colon Orchards; Blake Osborne of the CSU – Water Institute; and moderators Chelsey Nutter of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and Ashlee Sack of Fremont Adventure Recreation.

How Water Reuse Can Help Meet the West’s Water Needs — @wradv

Water reuse via GlobalWarming.com.

From Western Resource Advocates (Laura Belanger):

The West faces a water supply gap, and the reasons are simple. Our quickly growing cities and towns are adding demands on our already stretched water supplies. Water reuse can help us fill the gap.

So what is water reuse and why is it important? First, it’s important to understand the difference between the two primary types of reuse: potable and non-potable reuse. Many states in the West currently allow for non-potable – or purple pipe – reuse for things like landscape irrigation, industrial purposes, commercial laundries, and fire protection, among other things. But a majority of purple pipe reuse is for outdoor landscape irrigation which really only benefits us during irrigation months (less than half of the year). But with potable reuse – where water is treated to very high quality standards to ensure it’s safe and often blended with other supplies – that water can be used anytime, anywhere and for anything. Potable reuse helps stretch supplies and meet more demand with the same volume of water. And it doesn’t require an entirely separate set of pipes (purple) to deliver it.

Western Resource Advocates is working with water utilities, local and state agencies, and other organizations to help increase water reuse around the West to address this growing problem. In Colorado specifically, WRA is working with a diverse group of stakeholders to help develop regulations for direct potable reuse and advance legislation to increase reuse to help the state’s water supplies. Recycled water has been used for decades in Colorado and states across the nation and has long been proven to be a safe, cost-effective tool for additional water supply. In fact, the State of the Rockies Poll found that 78% of westerners “support using our current water supply more wisely by encouraging more conservation and increasing water recycling.“

Currently, WRA and our partners are working to advance four bills in the Colorado legislature that would allow recycled water to be used for:

  • toilet flushing,
  • marijuana cultivation,
  • edible crop and community garden irrigation, and
  • growth of industrial hemp.
  • Other states, like Florida, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, currently allow for recycled water to be used for toilet flushing and edible crop irrigation, and have successfully supplemented their water supplies this way. Colorado’s Water Plan also specifically calls for state agencies to identify how the state can foster increased reuse to help address growing demands, and these initiatives are a great step in that direction. By embracing water reuse for these applications and others we can help bolster our stretched water supplies, and work to help shrink the gap between those supplies and the demands of our growing cities and towns. Water reuse, in concert with other water-smart tools and strategies, can help us provide for our communities while also protecting our beloved rivers and lakes, keeping them healthy and preserving the quality of life that they afford for all of us.

    Measuring snow persistence can help predict streamflow — @ColoradoStateU

    Abnormal snow conditions in the San Juan Mountains near Red Mountain Pass, January 2018. Photo: John Hammond/CSU

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):

    With warming climates around the world, many regions are experiencing changes in snow accumulation and persistence. Historically, researchers and water managers have used snow accumulation amounts to predict streamflow, but this can be challenging to measure across mountain environments.

    In a new study, a team of researchers at Colorado State University found that snow persistence — the amount of time snow remains on the ground — can be used to map patterns of annual streamflow in dry parts of the western United States. The ultimate goal of this research is to determine how melting snow affects the flow of rivers and streams, which has an impact on agriculture, recreation and people’s everyday lives.

    Scientists said the findings may be useful for predicting streamflow in drier regions around the world, including in the Andes mountains in South America or the Himalayas in Asia.

    The study was published in Water Resources Research, a journal from the American Geophysical Union.

    Watch a video from one of the research sites at the Michigan River watershed above Cameron Pass in north central Colorado.

    John Hammond, a doctoral student in the Department of Geosciences at CSU and lead author of the study, said the research is the first of its kind to explicitly link snow persistence and water resources using hard data. Similar research has only been conducted using computer-generated models.

    Watch a video showing how Hammond and the research team monitor snowpack, soil moisture and streamflow at different elevations across the state.
    The research team examined how snow and changes in climate relate to streamflow measurements for small watersheds across the western United States, using data from MODIS, a satellite sensor, and from stream gauging stations operated by the U.S. Geological Survey. They studied mountainous regions with varying climates in the western United States, Cascades of the northwest, the Sierras and the northern and southern Rockies.

    Stephanie Kampf, associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and study co-author, said the snow persistence data is particularly useful in dry mountain regions.

    “If we look at how increases in snow relate to annual streamflow, we see basically no pattern in wet watersheds,” she said. “But we see a really strong increase in streamflow with increasing snow persistence in dry areas, like Colorado.”

    CSU researchers also explored snow persistence in middle to lower elevations, which are often ignored in snow research, said Hammond.

    Learn more about Stream Tracker, a citizen science-driven project Kampf oversees to improve the mapping and monitoring of smaller streams in Colorado.

    “Half of the streamflow for the Upper Colorado River Basin came from a persistent snowpack above 10,000 feet,” he said. “The snow-packed areas above 10,000 feet are really small and are also very isolated across the West. The middle to lower elevations don’t accumulate as much snow, but they cover much more area.”

    Streamflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin showed a reliance on snow persistence in these lower elevation areas, according to the study. Researchers said that this highlights the need to broaden research beyond the snow at high elevations, to not miss important changes in lower-elevation snowpack that also affect streamflow.