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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Research Project #419534


Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
1. Design integrated, multi-functional organic crop rotations that include legume and grass crops for improved water retention and water quality enhancement. 2. Establish experimental systems on certified organic land at the ISU Agronomy and Ag Engineering Research Farm and on-farm sites, including extensive instrumentation to monitor subsurface tile water quantity and quality and soil water content. 3. Develop recommendations for methods to improve water quality based on results derived from monitoring and analyzing water output and quality from experimental fields and simulation models.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The goal of this research is to evaluate water quality impacts of organically-managed agricultural systems in tile-drained regions of the upper Midwest. Thirty plots (30.5 m W x 32.0 m L) will be established within a 25 ha field at the ISU Agronomy and Ag Engineering Research Farm that has been transitioning to certified organic management since 2006, under oat/alfalfa. The infrastructure for evaluating subsurface tile drain water quality and quantity and soil water content within each plot will be installed in the summer 2010. Tile drain water samples will be collected to evaluate drain water quantity and quality starting in spring of 2011, and will continue for the duration of the experiment. Soil sensors will be installed in each plot at 5, 15, 30, and 50 cm depths to evaluate soil water content, plant-available water, salinity and temperature. Soil fertility status will be quantified for each plot in spring 2011. Soil cores (to 120 cm) will be taken every spring and fall in 2011, 2012, and 2013, to evaluate soil profile N, P, and C distributions. Surface soil cores (0-5 cm and 5-15 cm) will be removed in late fall 2010-2013, to assess soil biological, chemical, and physical changes during establishment of organic systems. Three organic cropping systems (C-S-O/A-A, C-S-WW/clover, and continuous pasture) and a conventional C-S rotation will be established in the spring of 2011. All phases of all rotations will be present every year. Composted animal manure will be used as the nutrient source in the organic plots and 28% UAN in the conventional corn plots. Weeds will be managed using a rotary hoe and cultivator in organic plots and herbicide in conventional plots. Crop yield and residue N, C, and P content will be quantified for all crops every year for the duration of the experiment. Nutrient and water budgets will be calculated for each cropping rotation. The RZWQM- model will be used to simulate water and N movement, crop growth, and C and N cycling. Model predictions of tile drain N leaching will be compared with measured values.

3. Progress Report:
Installation of equipment to collect water samples from the tile drains was completed in November 2011. Tile water flow monitoring began on December 1, 2011. Collection of tile water samples began on April 5, 2012. Soil was leveled and seedbed prepared for planting, compost applied to organic corn and oat plots, and organic oats seeded in March 2012. Organic alfalfa and pasture plots seeded in April 2012. Soil cores were collected to a depth of 120 cm in early May 2012. Corn and soybeans planted in organic and conventional plots May 2012. Nitrogen fertilizer and herbicide applied to conventional plots in June 2012. Weeds controlled in organic corn and soybean plots with rotary hoe and cultivation as needed through early July. Analysis of soil and water samples is in progress.

4. Accomplishments