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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Assessment of the Condition of Agricultural Lands in Five Mid-Atlantic States

Authors
item Hellkamp, A - EMAP, NCSU
item Shafer, Steven
item Campbell, C - EMAP, NCSU PL PATHOLOGY
item Bay, J - EMAP, NCSU
item Fiscus, D - EMAP, NCSU
item Hess, G - EMAP, NCSU FORESTRY
item Mcquaid, B - EMAP, NCSU; USDA-NRCS
item Munster, M - EMAP, NCSU
item Olson, G - EMAP, NCSU
item Peck, S - EMAP, NCSU

Submitted to: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 25, 1997
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Environmental regulations are intended to ensure conservation and protection of natural resources. Characteristics of the environment must be monitored over time to determine whether such regulations are effective. An important component of the Nation's natural resources is the agricultural systems that provide food and fiber. Monitoring and assessing the condition of agricultural land are important to predicting whether such lands will be able to continue to be productive for future generations, and to determine how agricultural-related activities may affect off-farm natural resources. Indicators of the condition and sustainability of agricultural lands planted to annually harvested herbaceous crops were tested in five mid-Atlantic states in 1994. Crops during that year had yields that averaged 40% greater than the yields of the 1980's. Selected physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of soil in the region indicated that soil condition was moderate for crop production. Almost 2/3 of the cropland was included on crop rotation plans. Insecticides were applied to less than 20% of the cropland, and pesticides leaching was considered a concern on less than 10% of the cropland. In general, the condition of cropland in the region was considered good, but this type of information should be re-assessed periodically to determine whether this condition is being maintained

Technical Abstract: The EMAP Agricultural Lands Resource Group measured indicators of the condition and sustainability of agricultural lands in five mid-Atlantic states in 1994. Indicators were selected to reflect crop productivity and land stewardship on annually harvested herbaceous crop (AHHC) land, which covers almost 10% of the land area in this region. Overall, condition of agricultural lands in the mid-Atlantic region is good. Among the favorable results: crops in general outperformed crops grown in the 1980's, with a mean observed/expected yield index greater than 1; the mean soil quality index was slightly but significantly better than moderate for crop growth; almost 2/3 of the AHHC land is covered by crop rotation plans, with the remaining land mostly in hay fields; insecticides were applied to less than 20% of AHHC land, and less than 20% of the land where pesticides were applied has high to moderate high potential for pesticides leaching into groundwater. Among the less favorable results: integrated pest management (IPM) is practiced on less than 20% of AHHC land. Other indicators revealed crop differences: hay showed more efficient use of nitrogen than seed crops; and non-tilled sites, which are mostly hay, had more microbial biomass (suggesting more nutrient cycling) than tilled sites

Last Modified: 7/23/2014