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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Research Project #445395

Research Project: Agronomic and Engineering Solutions for Conventional and Organic Conservation Agricultural Systems in the Southeastern U.S.

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Project Number: 6010-21600-002-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 15, 2023
End Date: Oct 14, 2028

Objective:
1. Optimize cropping system best management practices, based on long-term research data, and accounting for variable weather conditions, for single and mixed species high-residue cover crops in cotton, corn, peanut, soybean, and vegetable cropping systems. 1A. Evaluate single and mixtures of cereal, legume, and Brassica cover crop species on weed suppression (herbicide resistant and troublesome weeds) in vegetable and row crop production systems, including organic. 1B. Determine optimal cover crop performance across different management strategies to develop best management practices (BMPs) for cover crops. 2. Develop cover crop termination and smallholder no-till equipment engineering solutions to enhance soil quality in conventional and organic production systems. 2A. Develop no-till equipment including rollers/crimpers, planters, and transplanters for small farming operations to reduce manual labor and increase work efficiency using both 2-wheel walk-behind and a category 1 hitch Oggun 4-wheel limited resource light tractor. 3. Enhance and develop innovative, economically feasible, sustainable, and resilient pasture and forage-based production systems for the Southeastern U.S. 3A. Determine the feasibility of using plant growth promoting rhizobacteria for a sustainable production system of forage crops and pastures that is resilient to the changing southern climate. 3B. Develop an integrated pest and input management system for improved production of forages and pastures that promote ecosystem service.

Approach:
Southeastern row crop and specialty crop producers are challenged to adopt and/or maintain conservation tillage systems due to increasing production costs, threats due to pests, and equipment limitations. Due to soil health and productivity concerns, crop and livestock producers in the Southeastern U.S. who grow cover crops or forages are requesting optimized best management practices and scientifically sound data to maximize return on investment (ROI). Producers of all farm sizes desire to increase production efficiency, specifically in innovative ways to reduce the time, labor, and other costs associated with planting cover and crops, while enhancing the benefits of including cover crops in production systems. In addition, livestock producers desire improving forage quantity and quality. Concomitantly, the region’s producers are struggling with emerging pest issues including herbicide resistant weeds. Our objectives systematically examine three conservation systems and forage systems objectives to develop integrated, robust, and dynamic best management practices in Southeastern U.S. crop and livestock production operations to improve soil health and agroecosystem sustainability under variable conditions. Our objectives include: (1) Optimize cropping system best management practices, based on long-term research data, and accounting for variable weather conditions, for single and mixed species high-residue cover crops in cotton, corn, peanut, soybean, and vegetable cropping systems, (2) develop cover crop termination and smallholder no-till equipment engineering solutions to enhance soil quality in conventional and organic production systems and (3) enhance and develop innovative, economically feasible, sustainable, and resilient pasture and forage- based production systems for the Southeastern U.S. The success of these three objectives will benefit producers directly through equipment advances for large- and small-scale producers, management techniques to maximize cover crop benefits associated with improved soil health, and improved pasture and forage-based systems. Entities, including other government agencies and university extension services, will also benefit through access to scientifically based results and recommendations related to conservation systems that can be transferred to various clientele.