Manhattan, KS— Vaishali Sharda, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering at Kansas State University, has received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to develop water and nutrient management strategies to aid in managing climate risks and preserving resources in the eastern Kansas River Basin.

Sharda is the K-State lead for the four-year, $750,000 project, “Irrigation at the new 100th Meridian: Adaptation to manage climate risks and preserve water resources in the Eastern Kansas River Basin,” alongside co-principal investigator Katherine Nelson, assistant professor of geography at K-State. The pair will work collaboratively with the principal investigator on the project, Sam Zipper, and Erin Seybold from the University of Kansas Center for Research/Kansas Geological Survey.

The project aims to help the region adapt to current and future changes in climate as the 100th meridian, which separates the arid western United States from the humid eastern half of the country, shifts eastward. The hydroclimatic conditions characterizing the 100th meridian are expected to continue to migrate eastward throughout the 21st century.

“This ‘new 100th meridian’ caused by eastward aridification will introduce novel climate risks and require new management strategies, such as the expansion of irrigation, for a large U.S. agricultural region,” Sharda said. “Our goal is to develop water and nutrient management strategies that can enhance crop productivity, protect water quantity and quality, and sustain agricultural communities in the face of these novel climate risks in the eastern Great Plains.”

Sharda said the group will identify potential climate risks faced by agricultural producers in the region, develop a range of effective water and nutrient management strategies, and quantify the agronomic and hydrologic outcomes for each scenario. The project will also provide a fundamental understanding of how the interconnected groundwater-surface water system responds to climate change and management practices at the field scale, and predict water quantity and quality outcomes for future climate and management scenarios.

“We will generate maps of community resilience for all climate and adaptation scenarios modeled in this study to identify ‘hotspots’ of concern across the region,” Sharda said. “The project will identify sustainable transition pathways for the agricultural communities of the region to manage emerging climate risks without depleting or degrading water resources.”