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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Enabling Management Response of Southeastern Agricultural Crop and Pasture Systems to Climate Change

Location: National Soil Dynamics Laboratory

Project Number: 6420-11120-006-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 22, 2010
End Date: Mar 21, 2015

Objective:
The long-term objectives of this project are to improve understanding of the effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration on: agricultural productivity; the role of agronomic management in the sequestration of atmospheric CO2 as organic C in soil; and the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) from agro-ecosystems. Specifically, we will focus on: (1) determining the impacts of elevated atmospheric CO2 and fertilization on plant production, soil C and N dynamics (including C sequestration), soil physicochemical properties, and soil biological properties for adapting Southeastern pasture systems to conditions of changing climate; (2) evaluating the interacting effects of fertilization and elevated atmospheric CO2 on emissions of GHG from soils in Southeastern pasture systems to develop strategies for mitigating the net impact of pasture systems on climate change; and (3) determining the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on the establishment and spread of invasive weeds and endemic crop diseases to adapt control strategies to a changing environment.

Approach:
A long-term Southeastern pasture system, using bahiagrass exposed to current and projected levels of atmospheric CO2 and either managed (N added) or unmanaged (no N), is on-going. Carbon flux to plants (biomass growth, allocation, and quality) and soil will be determined with supporting data on soil physicochemical properties. Emphasis will be given to measuring soil C and N dynamics and C storage, root growth, decomposition, water quality, microbial community structure, and GHG (CO2, N2O, and CH4) flux from soil. In addition, container studies examining invasive weeds and endemic plant diseases important to the southeastern U.S will be conducted under the same CO2 levels as the pasture study. Invasive work will occur in two phases: (1) herbicide trials with selected invasive weeds; and (2) herbicide trials with invasives in competition with crop plants. Herbicide efficacy, re-growth, biomass, and tissue quality will be determined at study termination. Disease work will focus on various types of pathogens, i.e., fungal, bacterial, and viral, as well as soil-borne and aerial. Plants will be grown and harvested as for the invasive weed research. Plants will be monitored for symptoms and signs of disease. In all cases, disease incidence (percent plants infected) and severity (proportion of each plant affected) will be assessed. Effects of CO2 on disease development will be assessed by monitoring time to symptom development, latent period (time to sporulation), sporulation (quantity of spores produced), and sporulation period. The effect of CO2 on agronomic systems is a critical, yet neglected, area of research. Integrating data from these studies will aid understanding of the effects of future levels of atmospheric CO2 on agronomic systems in regard to production, the ability to help mitigate global change via sequestration of C in soil, and management of invasive weeds and endemic plant diseases.

Last Modified: 7/24/2014
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