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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Development of Sustainable Production Systems and Water Management Technology for the Mid South

Location: Crop Production Systems Research

2011 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Develop cropping systems, conservation management practices and crop rotations with improved water management and enhanced economic and environmental sustainability.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Improved irrigation scheduling and application technologies and water management tools will be developed and delivered to producers to improve water use and crop yield and quality. The research will develop production systems and identify management practices that improve soil quality and increase profitability by incorporating conservation production practices, alternative crops and crop rotations. Profitability of management practices and production systems will be tested with economic analysis. Fundamental principles of successful production systems will be delineated, and examined for impacts on risks, competitiveness and environmental impacts.

3. Progress Report
Substantial progress has been made this year in developing, testing, and implementing the decision support tool for irrigation scheduling. The system is being tested in six corn production fields, five soybean production fields, and two cotton production fields, in addition to the research field test sites. Crop coefficients are being tested for corn, soybeans, and cotton, for a variety of soil types typical to the Mississippi River Alluvial Flood Plain. Preliminary tests of the system are also being conducted on vegetable production sites in collaboration with researchers at the Alcorn State University Experiment Station. The user interface and web-based access system is being developed in collaboration with University and Extension colleagues at Mississippi State University. The web-based interface will be delivered through the MSUCares Extension Service web-page.

4. Accomplishments
1. Development of a dynamic, geometrically accurate model of a cotton canopy. Simulation models of crops allow study of biophysical and physiological processes within the crop canopy. Improved geometric accuracy enhances the detail of interactions between factors, and allows a more robust exploration of the dynamic crop microenvironment. ARS researchers in Stoneville, MS, in collaboration with university colleagues, used the tensor-products-interpolants algorithm to develop a mathematically rigorous geometric simulation of cotton crop canopies. The model accounts for subtle differences in leaf shape, size, and twisting, and is used by the research team to explore the distribution of photosynthetically active radiation and photosynthetic activity within the canopy. The advanced geometric detail of the simulation will improve our understanding of the canopy microenvironment, and could assist in the development of better targeted and more efficient insect control measures.

2. Determination of cotton fiber damage by standard ginning and spinning operations. Cotton processing requires lint fibers that are consistent, long, and strong. Immature cotton lint can be damaged by standard ginning and spinning operations, interrupting the processing and reducing the quality of the finished product. A team of ARS researchers in Stoneville, MS, and New Orleans, LA, in collaboration with university colleagues, is examining processing steps in cotton ginning and spinning that potentially contribute to poor fiber quality and impair textile operations. The team manages the cotton in the field to enhance production of immature fibers, which are then compared to mature cotton fibers during standard commercial-scale harvesting, ginning and spinning operations. The team found that, while some damage occurred to the mature fibers during processing, the immature fibers had much more damage. While differences between the maturity groups were less obvious in the yarn, the skein strength and yarn neps were of lower quality for the immature cottons. The team concluded that improvements in lint cleaner design may benefit cotton producers.

3. Identification of indicators, criteria and principles of sustainable agricultural systems. Agriculture in the U.S. is undergoing profound changes from increasing urbanization, turbulence in input costs and commodity prices, and shifts in consumer demands and global competition. Producers need tools to identify successful strategies of management choices and production systems. A team of ARS researchers from Stoneville, MS, Mandan, ND, Orono, ME, Madison, WI, and Pullman, WA, are collaborating to examine crop and animal production systems in the United States and identify fundamental principles of successful production systems. The team of researchers has identified social, political, environmental, economic and technological factors that drive management practices and production systems. By identifying the responsiveness of current production systems to forces that are shaping agriculture, successful strategies that will be useful for addressing future challenges to agriculture are identified. Reconnecting the consumption and production cycles of agriculture is critical to transition agroecosystems towards sustainability. The research indicates new management strategies that are flexible enough to respond to changing societal demands, and are environmentally and economically sustainable.

Last Modified: 08/22/2017
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