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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS TO SUSTAIN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY IN THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS

Location: Soil Management Research

2006 Annual Report


1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
The northern U.S. Corn Belt is comprised of some of the most productive soils in the world. Yet, agricultural production in this region is often constrained by the loss of topsoil, degraded soil quality, and inefficient utilization of soil nutrients. Agricultural management can influence physical, chemical and biological properties and processes affecting crop production and environmental quality, including soil structure, soil erodibility, nutrient availability, water infiltration and availability, and pesticide mobility and transformation. This work will consist of a series of linked studies that address the development of conservation tillage, residue management systems, and alternate soil management and cropping systems to improve the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil. Soil and residue management effects on soil quality will be evaluated by monitoring soil fertility, soil biological communities, soil structure, soil carbon pools, and soil productivity. The focus of our research will be directed toward field studies evaluating the impact of management strategies on nutrient, soil carbon/organic matter, and soil biological dynamics; this research will address differing tillage intensities, rates of corn stover removal, and comparisons of organic and conventional management systems. Additionally, we will assess the impact of landscape restoration (soil movement from areas of soil accumulation to eroded areas within a landscape) on soil properties, soil productivity, and environmental quality in severely eroded prairie landscapes. This integrated research will provide critical information required for the development of management practices that enhance soil productivity, conserve soil and nutrient resources, and protect environmental quality in the northern Great Plains.

This research project is a component of the Soil Resource Management National Program (NP202). The products of this research will contribute toward the development of improved agricultural production systems that promote resource efficiency, nutrient cycling, and environmental services; improved knowledge of how carbon dynamics affects nutrient cycling and soil organic matter transformations; enhanced soil carbon sequestration and reduced soil carbon losses from agroecosystems (resulting in improved soil quality, increased productivity, and improved environmental quality); assessment tools to implement and promote conservation strategies; bioenergy and bio-product production systems that significantly contribute to U.S. energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support rural communities without degrading soil resources; an improved scientific basis for mitigating risks of agricultural pesticide use while maintaining pest-management efficacy; and an approach to restore degraded soil resources that improves food security and environmental quality.

The project addresses a number of problems affecting farm productivity and profitability in the northern Great Plains. Growers, extension personnel, private sector consultants, scientists, university classroom instructors, and regulators will benefit from the information developed for this critically-important agricultural region in which production security is constrained by soil erosion, degraded soil quality, and climatic conditions.


2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)
Year 1. (FY-2006) Objective 1. Determine the impact of management strategies on nutrient, soil carbon, and organic matter dynamics a. Perform enzyme analysis on fungal and bacterial components; sample and process microbial biomass and FAME data b. Establish field plots, collect initial soil samples. Initiate biomass harvest on conventional and established tillage sites c. First year of nitrogen mineralization incubations Objective 2. Evaluate the impact of landscape restoration (soil movement from areas of soil accumulation to areas of topsoil depletion) on soil properties, soil productivity, and environmental quality in severely eroded undulating landscapes. d. West central Minnesota site identification, characterization, soil movement for landscape restoration

Year 2. (FY-2007) Objective 1. Determine the impact of management strategies on nutrient, soil carbon, and organic matter dynamics a. Sample and process microbial biomass and FAME data; enzyme analysis b. Score individual soil indicators and compute an overall soil quality index (SQI) in an initial assessment c. First year of monitoring biomass and grain yield, economic yield d. Second year of nitrogen mineralization incubations Objective 2. Evaluate the impact of landscape restoration (soil movement from areas of soil accumulation to areas of topsoil depletion) on soil properties, soil productivity, and environmental quality in severely eroded undulating landscapes e. Southeastern Minnesota site identification, characterization, soil movement for landscape restoration f. Evaluation of post-restoration soil properties at west central MN site; first year of yield monitoring

Year 3. (FY-2008) Objective 1. Determine the impact of management strategies on nutrient, soil carbon, and organic matter dynamics a. Second year of monitoring biomass and grain yield b. Third year of nitrogen mineralization incubations Objective 2. Evaluate the impact of landscape restoration (soil movement from areas of soil accumulation to areas of topsoil depletion) on soil properties, soil productivity, and environmental quality in severely eroded undulating landscapes. c. Evaluation of post-restoration soil properties at southeastern MN site; yield monitoring at both sites d. Evaluation of post-restoration soil erosion by tillage and water under different tillage scenarios (modeling)

Year 4. (FY-2009) Objective 1. Determine the impact of management strategies on nutrient, soil carbon, and organic matter dynamics a. Third year of monitoring biomass and grain yield b. Fourth year of nitrogen mineralization incubations Objective 2. Evaluate the impact of landscape restoration (soil movement from areas of soil accumulation to areas of topsoil depletion) on soil properties, soil productivity, and environmental quality in severely eroded undulating landscapes. c. Yield monitoring at both sites d. Initiate laboratory studies of herbicide transformation and sorption in soils in restored and unrestored landforms

Year 5. (FY-2010) Objective 1. Determine the impact of management strategies on nutrient, soil carbon, and organic matter dynamics a. Collect soil samples for soil carbon pool analysis b. Process and analyze microbial biomass and FAME data c. Collect detailed soil samples, analyze change in soil carbon parameters d. Score individual soil indicators and compute an overall soil quality index (SQI), compare to initial assessment e. Analyze data; prepare manuscript Objective 2. Evaluate the impact of landscape restoration (soil movement from areas of soil accumulation to areas of topsoil depletion) on soil properties, soil productivity, and environmental quality in severely eroded undulating landscapes. f. Complete laboratory studies of herbicide transformation and sorption in soils in restored and unrestored landforms g. Yield monitoring at both sites, evaluation of change in soil properties in restored and unrestored landforms at west central MN site


4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
This accomplishment aligns with the Soil Erosion problem area of NP202. Characterization of Soil Profiles in a Landscape Affected by Long-Term Tillage Soil loss by erosion is recognized as a factor limiting crop production and plant growth throughout the world, and soil movement by tillage (tillage erosion) can be a dominant force in redistributing soil in a landscape. In this study, we evaluated the impact of long-term cultivation on the properties of the different layers (horizons) in the soil and their arrangement with depth. We determined that at this site in west central Minnesota, cultivation for the past 100 years has resulted in a pattern of soil redistribution within the landscape such that topsoil has been removed from upper hillslope positions and accumulated at lower slope positions. Tillage erosion, the primary erosive force at this site, has resulted in substantial incorporation of subsoil material in eroded landscape positions, giving the surface soils in these areas properties that impart lower productivity than soils in lower slope positions. Comparing the properties of the surface soil in cultivated areas (regardless of erosion status) with those in an adjacent uncultivated area indicated that intensive tillage and cropping has significantly depleted the surface soil organic matter throughout this landscape. Extension personnel, growers, crop consultants, regulatory agencies, and other scientists can use this information to better predict crop yield responses to soil properties and landscape position in eroded areas, to develop precision agriculture approaches to increase the productivity of eroded soils, and to design methods to remediate or restore eroded landscapes.


4b.List other significant research accomplishment(s), if any.
This accomplishment aligns with the NP202 problem area managing pesticides in soil. Effect of Variability of Subsurface Soil Properties on Sorption-Desorption of Imidacloprid and Its Metabolites Sorption-desorption processes describe the retention of chemicals by the soil, and these processes are important in determining the amount of pesticide that can reach the target organism and the amounts that can be volatilized, degraded, and leached. This research, which characterized the sorption-desorption of the insecticide imidicloprid and three of its metabolites in two soils, showed that soil properties and sorption coefficients were highly variable with depth. A common approach of estimating subsurface sorption coefficients resulted in both severe overprediction and underprediction (up to a factor of >20) of the measured sorption value of each compound. In all cases, sorption was not readily reversible (the chemicals did not release from the soils), further complicating the accurate prediction of pesticide mobility in the subsurface. This information will be useful in assessing the bioavailability and leaching potential of these chemicals. These results emphasize the importance of sorption/mobility measurements for increasing the accuracy of models that attempt to predict the frequency of groundwater contamination by pesticides and expected pesticide concentrations in the subsurface.


4c.List significant activities that support special target populations.
None.


4d.Progress report.
None.


5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
Significant major accomplishments were reported under CRIS 3645-12000-004-00D, Land Management Practices to Enhance the Physical, Chemical and Biological Traits of Cold, Wet Soil, which terminated 04/14/2006. This CRIS replaced 3645-12000-004-00D beginning 4/15/2006.


6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?
This project replaced project 3645-12000-004-00D, Land Management Practices to Enhance the Physical, Chemical and Biological Traits of Cold, Wet Soil, which expired on April 14, 2006. The expired project addressed the effects of tillage erosion on soil productivity, methods to assess soil biological quality, and improvements in modeling soil nutrients, soil water content, and soil temperature profiles. Because the current project was only recently initiated, technology transfer associated with this project has been limited.


7.List your most important publications in the popular press and presentations to organizations and articles written about your work. (NOTE: List your peer reviewed publications below).
Tillage erosion study hopes to harvest facts. Published in AgriNews June 22, 2006. Available on the web at http://webstar.agrinews.com/agrinews/185106770372689.bsp


Last Modified: 9/22/2014
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