IMPROVING SOILS AND THEIR MANAGEMENT FOR MORE EFFICIENT WATER USE IN ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research
Project Number: 6657-12000-005-00
Start Date: May 02, 2006
End Date: May 01, 2011
Improve soil structure and reduce soil strength to improve crop productivity and environmental quality. Improve Coastal Plain soil physical properties that increase infiltration of rainfall/irrigation and increase plant available water content using conservation tillage and reduced compaction. Develop structure in sandy Coastal Plain soils to increase plant-available water holding capacities, reduce penetration resistance, sequester carbon, and bind excess phosphorous and trace elements. Increase soil organic matter contents to improve soil physical/chemical properties in highly-weathered sandy Coastal Plain soils using cover crops, biochar, and green manures.
Three avenues will be explored to understand soil mechanisms and develop new management systems that enhance Coastal Plain soils for increased production and improved environmental quality. First, soil amendments will be assessed for their ability to increase aggregation and organic matter contents in Coastal Plain soils; this can lead to more effective water holding capacities for plant use, improved infiltration, and reduced compaction. Soil amendments, such as environmentally friendly versions of polyacrylamide, water treatment residuals, activated/non-activated charcoal and organic matter, will be analyzed in laboratory experiments to determine their potential to improve soil physical/chemical properties and decrease the need for tillage. Second, cotton and corn growth and yield will be evaluated in treatments that use different deep tillage implements providing various disruption patterns of the subsurface hard soil layer. Treatments for each implement include tillage in the year of measurement and tillage one or two years earlier. Data will be analyzed to evaluate relationships of productivity with soil strength, tillage, and amount/duration of soil disruption by the various implements. Third, carbon sequestration will be evaluated for biochar amendements to the soils and for both above ground (residue) and below ground (root) organic matter additions. Evaluations will take place in the lab in pot studies and in field plots that have a combination of deep and shallow tillage as well as various crop/cover crop rotations. A mixture of soil, water, and atmospheric sampling techniques will be used to determine the influence of crop management techniques on soil organic matter dynamics. All research is aimed at improving productivity and environmental quality for the benefit of agricultural producers and the general public.