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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVING SOIL AND NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINED PRODUCTIVITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

Location: Soil Plant Nutrient Research (SPNR)

Title: A Decade of Advances in Cover Crops: Cover Crops with Limited Irrigation can Increased Yields, Crop Quality, Nutrient and Water Use Efficiencies While Protecting the Environment

Authors
item DELGADO, JORGE
item Dillon, Merlin - COLO ST UNIV, CENTER, CO
item Sparks, Richard - USDA, NRCS, CO
item Essah, Samuel - COLO ST UNIV, CENTER, CO

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 7, 2007
Publication Date: September 28, 2007
Citation: Delgado, J.A., Dillon, M., Sparks, R., Essah, S. 2007. A decade of advances in cover crops: cover crops with limited irrigation can increased yields, crop quality, nutrient and water use efficiencies while protecting the environment. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 62:110A-117A.

Interpretive Summary: Multidisciplinary team efforts can contribute to successful applied research stories that in turn contribute to advances in soil and water conservation. A good example of a long term applied research cooperation established in the early 1990’s is the “on going” cooperation between the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) - Soil Plant Nutrient Research Unit; Colorado State University (CSU) - San Luis Valley Research Center; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Alamosa Area Office; and commercial farm operations in the region. In summary, this multidisciplinary, multi-agency cooperation team has been developing sustainable cropping systems that reduce the environmental impacts, conserve soil and water quality, and even improve soil and water quality that will increase and maintain yields and crop quality. The erosion and losses of soil particles are being decreased across the region with these practices. The leaching of nutrients to the underground water is being reduced and the sequestration of carbon and nitrogen is been increased with these new practices. The area under summer crops is being expanded and farmers are currently harvesting the products of this applied research. This joint ARS, CSU, NRCS, and farmer cooperation has contributed to expand the use of cover crops across the region to maintain and increase yields, while conservation has been a productive team cooperation. By bringing farmers to the conservation efforts, the basic and applied research efforts are already being disseminated from the start. The impacts of these joint cooperation efforts are also being applied in other regions and countries with projects that invite post doctoral and visiting scientists to participate. Communication and team efforts are essential for developing sustainable and viable vegetable and potato cropping systems.

Technical Abstract: Applied Research Team: Multidisciplinary team efforts can contribute to successful applied research stories that in turn contribute to advances in soil and water conservation. A good example of a long term applied research cooperation established in the early 1990’s is the “on going” cooperation between the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) - Soil Plant Nutrient Research Unit; Colorado State University (CSU) - San Luis Valley Research Center; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Alamosa Area Office; and commercial farm operations in the region. Over the last decade, since 1993, the team efforts had required constant communication, evaluation of cropping systems across the region, the identification of research problems that need to be solved, and the development of applied research alternatives. There had been extensive communication among the team members, which included updates at conferences, visits to the fields at research stations and commercial farm operations from cooperators, phone calls, e-mails, development of peer review manuscripts, extension bulletins, and regional conferences. The results and advances were periodically evaluated and the goals were adjusted as needed. This multidisciplinary, multi-agency approach with farmers’ cooperation is an example of building team efforts that contribute to develop cutting edge applied research solutions for a given region. Not only do these multidisciplinary team efforts contribute to resolve regional problems, they can also contribute to develop applied research that can be exported to other regions, states, or countries. An example of an impact from the San Luis Valley regional team cooperation is the isotopic 15N studies conducted for cover crops and potato rotations in the Pacific Northwest that were established using the same 15N experimental design that was used to study 15N cycling from small grain cropping systems to potato systems in south-central Colorado (Delgado et al., 2004; Collins et al., 2007). The establishment of these applied research studies for the San Luis Valley had also contributed to the development of new concepts and tools that are being applied across other regions in the state and at a national level. Some examples are: 1- New NLEAP model with three layer capabilities (Delgado et al., 1998); 2- new Nitrogen Losses Environmental Analysis Package with Geographic Information Capabilities (NLEAP-GIS) (Delgado and Shaffer, 2007; Delgado and Shaffer, 2007; Delgado and Bausch, 2005); 3- assessment of delta N losses at a field level (Delgado et al., 2007); 4- on going NRCS efforts in developing a new Nitrogen Trading Tool (NTT) (Delgado et al., 2007); 5- a new Nitrogen Index (Delgado et al., 2006); 6- Precision Conservation (Berry et al., 2003, 2005); 7- limited irrigation studies (Delgado et al., 2007); 7- International cooperation with the Swiss National Science Foundation, Zurich Switzerland, and the transfer of new conservation technologies to INIFAP, Mexico 8- cover crops for economical sustainability (Delgado et al., 1999) and several other national and international transfers of technologies. This feature manuscript focuses on advances in cover crops during the last decade that are being used by farmers across the region.

Last Modified: 8/27/2014
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