Location: Natural Resource Management Research2010 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Objective 1: Determine the environmental and economic impacts of cover crop and cover crop mixtures in semiarid cropping systems. Objective 2: Develop dynamic cropping systems to help meet bio-energy production needs and increase economic returns while enhancing natural resource quality. Objective 3: Develop multiple enterprise systems that integrate crops and livestock to economically optimize the quality and quantity of agricultural products while maintaining or enhancing soil quality indicators. Objective 4: Develop and identify management principles common to integrated agricultural systems across production regions that reduce risks, improve competitiveness, and promote environmental stewardship. Objective 5: Understand the best ways new production technologies and management systems should be delivered so producers can more easily adopt them.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Multiple methodologies will be used depending on the specific objectives because of the complexity of this integrated agricultural systems research project. Objective 1 will use a modified crop matrix where different cover crops are seeded into a common residue to evaluate the above- and below-ground impact of cover crops on subsequent crops. Objective 2 will use small plot techniques, crop rotation, economic analysis, and modeling techniques to develop economically feasible management strategies for biofuels and an Eddy Covariance System to measure CO2 flux as a surrogate for environmental impact of biomass crops. Integration of crops and livestock, Objective 3, will compare the performance of livestock when grazing annual crops in the fall to livestock performance when grazing perennial grasses in the fall. In the first 3 objectives, common data collected will include soil properties, biomass accumulation and soil water use. In addition, data on the impact of bio-char will be collected in Objective 2 and livestock production data will be collected in Objective 3. Economic analysis will be conducted as appropriate. The approaches for objectives 4 and 5 are not field based. Objective 4 will continue an existing roundtable that brings national and international leaders together to share ideas, concepts, and philosophies of integrated systems. Objective 5 will use a non-ARS collaborator to conduct surveys and coordinate with ARS to develop metrics that enhance the adoption of integrated agricultural technology by producers.
3. Progress Report
Good progress was made on most objectives for this CRIS during FY10. All objectives fall under NP 216 with Objectives 1 and 2 under NP Action Plan Component 1: Agronomic Crop Production Systems, Objective 3 under NP Action Plan Component 3: Integrated Whole Farm Production Systems and Objectives 4 and 5 under NP Action Plan Component 4: Integrated Technology and Information to Increase Customer Problem Solving Capacity. Under Objective 1, which focuses on the use of cover crops and cover crop mixtures, we conducted late-summer seeding of cover crop treatments into dry pea stubble, documented cover crop establishment, aboveground biomass production, water use, and nutritional quality of cover crop treatments. Soil samples were collected, processed, and analyzed for extractable N prior to seeding cover crop treatments and again the following spring. Near-surface soil samples were collected and analyzed for soil physical, chemical, and biological properties from select treatments prior to seeding response crops. Objective 2 focuses on the development of dynamic cropping systems to meet bio-energy production needs while maintaining environmental quality and enhancing economic returns. We are continuing to work on both perennial and annual bioenergy crops with a continued focus on strategies to producing sufficient material for bioenergy needs. Also, net carbon flux measurements are collected on a perennial biofuel crop. We are initiating work with biochar and soil samples have been collected with more planned to be collected this fall. Analysis of the samples is ongoing. One scientist in the unit is working with the ARS Biochar Working Group to establish new and innovative projects which will not repeat those currently being conducted by other units. Research will focus on indentifying the fit of biochar into agroecosystems common in the northern Great Plains, such as no-till dryland production systems. Objective 3 continues the Location’s focus on developing integrated crop and livestock systems. Although, one of the key personnel left ARS for a university position, another scientist has agreed to continue his work. Because of this the agronomic, soil, animal production and economic data collection has continued on schedule. Objective 4 is a multiple location objective that focuses on developing principles for integrated agricultural systems. We held the 5th workshop in our series of regional workshops in Pullman, Washington. This was successful and we are currently developing several manuscripts on principles that will complement our earlier published work. Objective 5 is a multiple location objective that focuses on effectively delivering information to customers and stakeholders. Progress on this objective has been slowed because of the retirement of the scientist responsible for meeting milestones and also, the need to get survey approval from OMB. Another scientist within the unit has agreed to continue to work on this objective and we will proceed once survey approval has been granted by OMB.
1. Irrigated cropping system management for economic returns and greenhouse gas reductions. Cropping system management could potentially be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. However, farmers are understandably unlikely to adopt management practices that are not profitable. Scientists at the USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory and the USDA-ARS Soil Plant Nutrient Research Unit in Mandan, North Dakota analyzed the relationship between economic returns and greenhouse gas emissions for contrasting tillage, crop rotation, and nitrogen fertilizer management systems on irrigated cropland in Northeastern Colorado. Results showed that avoiding over application of nitrogen fertilizer and switching from conventional tillage to no-till could increase profitability and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions.
5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
The location is working on developing relationships with several of the tribal colleges in the area. As part of this on-going effort, the location has participated in the ‘Cultural Awareness Workshop’ sponsored by United Tribes Technical College, has developed cooperative research grants with Sitting Bull Tribal College and North Dakota State University and has facilitated discussions between tribal, state and federal institutions evaluating the potential for livestock based development on Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.