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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: INVESTIGATING BIOENERGY-BASED CROPPING SYSTEMS FOR ENHANCING SOIL SUSTAINABILITY AND DECREASING WATER USE WITHIN THE GREAT PLAINS
2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Use WEPS and RUSLE2 programs to evaluate soil sustainability as a function of alternate cropping rotations/scenarios with an emphasis on bioenergy–based systems.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Use of lands within the central Great Plains for bioenergy production have not been rigorously evaluated from an agronomic, environmental, and economic perspective with respect to their ability to provide total land use sustainability. Therefore, the major objective of this proposed project will be to use the WEPS and RUSLE2 programs to increase the knowledge base concerning soil sustainability as a function of alternate cropping rotations/scenarios with an emphasis on bioenergy–based systems within select areas/locations in the central Great Plains. Specifically, rotations providing improvement in soil quality, reduction in wind erosion, and decreased water use will be targeted.

Project tasks include determining what lands/acreages within the central Great Plains can be termed ‘marginal’ and therefore targeted for alternate cropping rotations in terms of propensity for soil erosion due to rainfall and/or wind forces, levels of annual precipitation, and yields of conventional commodity crops and rotations.

Also, WEPS and RUSLE2 will be used to determine the change in agricultural crop residue removal quantities, as derived from the recent Idaho National Laboratory analysis, as a function of cover crops, yield increases through 2020, and field management timing and replacement.

In addition, we will determine alternate bioenergy-based cropping rotations as a function of localized geo-climatic conditions, and using WEPS and RUSLE2 analyze changes in soil quality versus current or expected cropping practices.


3.Progress Report:

The Wind Erosion Prediction System model was used to simulate the effects of crop residue removal for bioenergy on wind erosion potential. Results will help producers and planners determine the amounts of crop residue available for bioenergy purposes while maintaining the soil and air quality in the regions where residue is removed. Simulations were made for over 90 crop rotations on the major soil types in counties in five Great Plains states (CO, KS, OK, NE, TX). Rotations were simulated for high and low yields crops, with and without residue removal. Presently, persons previously at Idaho National Laboratory (now in private industry) have made these simulation runs for all land capability class I-VII (LCC I-VII) soil types in approximately 290 counties in six crop management zones (CMZ). Data concerning soil erosion and slope of soil organic matter from “baseline” rotations in each CMZ will be compared to the alternate cropping rotations to determine the best cropping rotation from a soil sustainability standpoint. Output data from these runs is scheduled to be compiled and sent to USDA and Enersol Resources Inc. by late July and will include aggregate comparisons by LCC, AWC (available water content), and tolerable soil loss limit (T).


Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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