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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

2010 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
This proposal evaluates agronomic and environmental costs and benefits of a northeastern dairy farming system that is designed to be in balance with regard to energy and nutrient imports/exports. We evaluate the benefits and costs of alternative cover crops, manure application systems and energy production systems. Results are intended to serve as the basis for advancing northeastern dairy farming systems to greater productivity and resource independence.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
An integrated farming systems model will be used to devise cropping systems based upon manure nutrients that will then be tested under different management scenarios in the field, tracking nutrient and energy flows as well as other production related factors. A demonstration/research site will be developed near University Park, PA, to establish field plots where alternative cropping systems are tested. Systems include corn and soybean rotations with various cover crops and winter small grains, including, but not limited to, canola to generate vegetable oil for farm machinery. In addition to tracking agronomic performance, pests and soil fertility, environmental variables will be measured (water and air quality). Optimal management combinations will be determined, from which agronomic recommendations will be developed.

3. Progress Report
The research contributes to subobjective 1.1, “Quantify management effects on nitrogen and phosphorus loss.” Research under this agreement was initiated in FY2010, and serves as the primary environmental assessment of a NESARE grant obtained by Penn State University to evaluate the long-term benefits of a novel farming system for northeastern dairy farms. The farming system includes canola as a biofuel crop and cattle feed, manure injection to improve nutrient use efficiency by crops, and winter cover crops to minimize erosion and promote nutrient capture. We installed 12 large (50 x 90’) field lysimeters at Rock Springs, PA to the monitor soil, water (surface runoff, subsurface flow) and atmospheric fate of nitrogen and phosphorus. In addition, we contributed to the survey, mapping and soil sampling of a 24 acre site that serves as the locus for the farming system trial. A graduate student was recruited and will begin work on the project in August, 2010. Progress was monitored via monthly meetings of research principals and daily to weekly e-mail and phone communication amongst ARS personnel involved with research implementation.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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