2008 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Modify existing farming systems and develop new production systems that, through use of conservation tillage and intensive cropping practices, improve profitability and reduce economic risks by enhancing carbon storage, plant available water, and soil productivity and quality.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Research challenges include developing integrated conservation systems for livestock-row crop production, integrating residue management and other soil management practices to increase plant available water, improving nutrient use efficiencies of organic nutrient sources, and developing rapid soil quality assessment tools for use in management decisions and evaluating the economics of their use. Three replicated field studies will be conducted on Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES) facilities: (1) Site-specific agriculture and landscape dynamics of soil quality as affected by management, (2) Tillage and rotation as factors for changing soil quality of a Decatur silt loam in the Tennessee Valley, and (3) Tillage requirements for winter-annual grazing rotations. The research task is not complete until the information is effectively delivered to the customers and stakeholders; consequently, a technical information specialist will be dedicated to transferring the information and technology to action agencies and the general public.
Auburn University, in cooperation with USDA-ARS, is conducting a joint test evaluating the effects of landscape variability and crop management, crop productivity, and soil quality. This test is being conducted at E.V. Smith Research and Extension Center in South Central Alabama on a 20-ac site. The site consists of typical Coastal Plain soils on rolling topography with significant terrain variability. The site has 6-replications of four crop management systems (conventional and conservation tillage) traversing the field as strips in a corn – cotton rotation; both phases of the cropping system are in place each year. Data being collected includes yield mapping, soil survey data, electrical conductivity, and terrain attributes. Different techniques for grouping the soil and terrain variability are currently being evaluated. Management zones were developed for this large experiment using statistical means of clustering the data, and geo-referenced crop yield data have been collected (2001-2007). We are evaluating:.
1)if field-scale crop yield variability is better described in zones derived from temporal or static data, and.
2)the relationships between zone development approach and crop management. Our results indicate that all evaluated data were generally suitable for characterizing crop productivity and variability using a clustering approach. As expected, satellite remote sensing data collected in season were more highly related to yield compared to terrain and soil variables. The relative effectiveness of these data for describing yield variability is most dependent on crop, and somewhat dependent on management.
High resolution color and false color infra-red imagery was collected in cooperation with Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), who has an airplane and a digital scanner system. Data were collected on May 17 and showed the effects of the early season drought on crop viability. The spectral quality of the imagery was very poor leading to a rejection of the images collected. ADECA promised to re-fly the mission until the drought intensified and all the crops failed. We are continuing our contacts with ADECA to use the sensor for data collections in 2008.
With the drought in place the importance of water and water distribution systems became paramount when examining cropping systems. Research was performed looking at idealized irrigable land placed in relative proximity to open water systems. The legal constraints involving individual fields and water distribution within fields was examined relative and compared to water requirements of different crops.
The ADODR has monitored activities via email correspondence, teleconferences, and site visits.