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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Dynamic Cropping Systems Implications for Long-Term Research

Authors
item Liebig, Mark
item Tanaka, Donald
item Krupinsky, Joseph
item Merrill, Stephen
item Hanson, Jonathan

Submitted to: Proceedings Great Plains Soil Fertility Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 6, 2006
Publication Date: March 7, 2006
Citation: Liebig, M.A., Tanaka, D.L., Krupinsky, J.M., Merrill, S.D., Hanson, J.D. 2006. Dynamic cropping systems: Implications for long-term research. p. 132-136. IN: A.J. Schlegel (ed.) Great Plains Soil Fertility Conf. Proc. Vol. 11. Denver, CO. 7-8 March 2006. Kansas State Univ.

Interpretive Summary: Long-term cropping systems research has been instrumental in determining the relative sustainability of agricultural management systems for more than 150 years. Evaluations conducted over the long-term (>20 yr) have been key to the success of cropping systems experiments, as treatment effects often take many years before consistent and measurable changes in soils and crops are detectable. While the value of long-term cropping systems experiments is readily apparent, they possess certain attributes that may limit their value to agricultural producers as well as researchers. In particular, experiments with fixed rotations (i.e., crops are sequenced over time in a consistent, unchanging pattern) run the risk of becoming irrelevant in regions where new crops and/or management innovations are incorporated into established cropping systems by agricultural producers. A dynamic cropping systems concept – defined as a long-term strategy of annual crop sequencing that optimizes crop and soil use options to attain production, economic, and resource conservation goals – is proposed as an approach to long-term cropping systems research to better maintain relevance with producers over time. Two basic design options are considered for evaluating dynamic cropping systems over the long-term: 1) compare a dynamic cropping system to other crop sequencing approaches, or 2) compare different approaches to managing dynamic cropping systems. If treatments within each design option are carefully selected, they have the potential to maintain relevance with producers over time. There are considerable challenges associated with the inclusion of dynamic cropping systems in long-term experiments, however, such as the selection of crops on an annual basis, which is inherently value-laden.

Technical Abstract: Long-term cropping systems research provides critical information to producers regarding the sustainability of management practices. Fixed cropping sequences in long-term cropping systems research, while useful from the standpoint of understanding specific crop rotation effects on agronomic and environmental attributes, run the risk of losing relevance with producers over time due to changes in cropping practices brought about by market forces and technological innovations. A dynamic cropping systems concept – defined as a long-term strategy of annual crop sequencing that optimizes crop and soil use options to attain production, economic, and resource conservation goals – is proposed as an approach to long-term cropping systems research to better maintain relevance with producers over time. Two basic design options are considered for evaluating dynamic cropping systems over the long-term: 1) compare a dynamic cropping system to other crop sequencing approaches, or 2) compare different approaches to managing dynamic cropping systems. Comparisons between a dynamic cropping system and other crop sequencing options allow for a direct evaluation of crop sequencing decision processes on cropping system performance. Comparisons between different management approaches within dynamic cropping systems allow for evaluations of whole production systems. If treatments within each design option are carefully selected, they have the potential to maintain relevance with producers over time. However, application of experimental treatments may be challenging, owing mainly to difficulties associated with objectively selecting crops on an annual basis within dynamic cropping systems.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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