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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Development of Sustainable Production Systems and Water Management Technology for the Mid South

Location: Crop Production Systems Research Unit

2010 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Design improved irrigation application technologies and scheduling techniques using automated technology to detect crop water status and provide site-specific application guidelines. Develop cropping systems, conservation management practices and crop rotations with improved water management and enhanced economic and environmental sustainability.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Improved irrigation scheduling and application technologies and water management tools will be developed and delivered to producers to improve water use and crop yield and quality. The research will develop production systems and identify management practices that improve soil quality and increase profitability by incorporating conservation production practices, alternative crops and crop rotations. Profitability of management practices and production systems will be tested with economic analysis. Fundamental principles of successful production systems will be delineated, and examined for impacts on risks, competitiveness and environmental impacts.


3.Progress Report
Crop coefficients developed in weighing lysimeters are being used in the irrigation scheduler for cotton production systems. National and state databases for soils, farm field boundaries, water sources, and weather are being incorporated in a web-based decision support tool to assist producers in scheduling irrigation for major row crops in the area. Collaborators on the development of this system are supported by two cooperative research agreements. The irrigation scheduler is being tested in production fields for corn, cotton and soybeans this summer. A variable rate irrigation system is being tested in a corn field, based on management zones. Corn yield and water use efficiency are being determined as a function of planting configuration (single and twin-rows), with and without irrigation. Changes in soil fertility, organic matter, and moisture are being determined with changes in tillage. The impacts of soil parameters on cotton and soybean quality and yield are being measured. Changes in cotton maturity with harvest and ginning are being determined. The impact of management practices and integration of agricultural systems on indices of sustainability are being explored with a dynamic model.


4.Accomplishments
1. Determination of Factors Impacting the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Agriculture. In the past, American agriculture was focused solely on its ability to produce sufficient food, fuel and fiber to meet local, national and global demands. While productivity will continue to be a major factor in food production systems, increased societal demands for environmentally sound management, the need for rural community viability, and a rapidly changing global marketplace have resulted in challenges for the current agricultural system. Researchers at Stoneville, MS; Auburn, AL; Orono, ME; and Mandan, ND; met with producers to examine agricultural production systems common to the Eastern U.S. to identifying key principles, components, and drivers that influence the development of production systems. Economic return, a critical component of a sustainable production system, is partially a function of the marketability of products. Marketing channels are dependent on social drivers, including education of producers and consumers, community support and community values. Development of local markets and community support strengthens the link between farmers and consumers, and reinforces the economic sustainability of local production systems. Production systems that demonstrated a decreased reliance on external risk reduction methods had greater flexibility in altering the crop and livestock mix to better respond to consumer demand. To transition U.S. agricultural production towards sustainability and address future challenges of resource limitations, food accessibility, nutrition and security, and changing consumer demands will require enhanced linkages between consumers and producers, development of new marketing channels, product acceptance, and knowledge within the consumption community.


Review Publications
Sassenrath, G.F., Halloran, J.M., Raper, R.L., Vadas, P.A., Hendrickson, J.R., Archer, D.W., Hanson, J.D. 2010. Drivers Impacting the Adoption of Sustainable Agricultural Management Practices and Production Systems of the Northeast and Southeast U.S. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. 34:680-702.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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