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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Management Strategies to Sustainably Intensify Northern Great Plains Agroecosystems

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Project Number: 3064-21660-003-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 01, 2013
End Date: Sep 30, 2018

OBJECTIVE 1. Develop and evaluate management strategies for sustainable use of agricultural production, including integrated crop - livestock systems. • Sub-objective 1.1 Sustainably intensify dryland agricultural production systems by including cover crops. • Sub-objective 1.2 Sustainably intensify dryland agricultural systems by integrating crops and livestock. • Sub-objective 1.3 Sustainably intensify dryland agricultural systems by including biofuel-focused cropping systems. OBJECTIVE 2. Determine economic, environmental and production tradeoffs of improved soil management practices in the northern Great Plains. • Sub-objective 2.1 Quantify ecosystem services within dryland agricultural production systems. • Sub-objective 2.2 Determine tradeoffs between production, economic, and ecosystem service outcomes to sustainably intensify dryland agricultural production systems.

An expanding human population, increasing worldwide demand for meat and continued biofuel demand will require intensified agricultural production to meet food and fuel needs. The concept of sustainable intensification or increasing food production on the same area while minimizing environmental impacts and increasing the flow of ecosystem services has been advocated as a means to address this challenge. This project will fill significant information gaps related to management alternatives needed to sustainably intensify agricultural production systems on the northern Great Plains. We will: 1) evaluate three different methods to intensify current cropping systems common in the northern Great Plains including (i) inclusion of cover crops; (ii) integration of crop-livestock systems; and (iii) biofuel focused cropping systems; and 2) quantify ecosystem services of dryland agriculture production systems and potential tradeoffs among production, economic and environmental outcomes associated with these production systems. Successful conclusion of this project will provide producers, policy makers and government agencies with potential methods to sustainably intensify dryland agricultural production systems in the northern Great Plains and an evaluation of the impacts of these methods. These results will be communicated to stakeholders through peer-reviewed papers, on-farm research, decision tool development and other outreach activities.

Last Modified: 11/24/2015
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