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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Soil and Water Management Research

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
1. Develop and test systems for sustainable co-production of food and fuel, as a contributor to the ARS Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP). 2. Develop guidelines for the optimization of soil fertility and C sequestration using organic and biochar amendments, for field and specialty crops. 3. Enable reduced N2O emissions from fertilized cropping systems through improved understanding of controlling mechanisms, as a contributor to the ARS Greenhouse Gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement network (GRACEnet).

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Field experiments will be conducted at three locations, each using 3 treatments: zero, intermediate, and full stover removal. We will measure soil organic carbon (SOC) changes and gas exchange. Research will also be conducted at the UMN’s Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (ROC) and on private farm fields in MN. Research at Rosemount will take place in two 20 ha fields with similar soil types, one managed as a conventional corn-soybean rotation; the other in a corn-soybean rotation, but with winter rye cover crop seeded by helicopter in late summer. Latent and sensible heat flux and net ecosystem exchange of CO2 will be measured by eddy covariance. Yield and ancillary soil, physiological and micrometeorological variables will also be measured for 4-years. Soil sampling for SOC analysis will be conducted biennially. Data will be used to test a model of rye production and water use (RyeGro). Field research will also be conducted at Rosemount MN and Arlington WI, supplemented by greenhouse research in St. Paul. Four treatments will be evaluated using a completely randomized design with 3 replications: (i) control, (ii) biochar, (iii) biochar plus manure, and (iv) manure. Biochar will be applied at 20,000 lb ac-1. Three other biochar treatments, derived from macadamia nut, wood pellet, and lump hardwood charcoal, will also be evaluated. Biochar production temperatures will be varied according to constant heating time and thermal time equivalency tests. Experiments will be conducted to examine impact of post-processing of biochar by thermally or chemically activation. All biochars will be analyzed for elemental composition, surface area, thermal stability, and CEC. Incubations will assess the impacts of biochar amendments on GHG production. For the greenhouse studies, 5 different specialty crops will be investigated with respect to biochar impacts on germination, growth, and uptake of volatile chemicals. Lab incubation experiments will be conducted to evaluate the inhibition of ammonium and nitrite oxidation rate due to the presence of free ammonia and free nitrous acid. Three different soils used for corn production in MN, IA, and eastern Canada will be examined. The methods will be adapted from procedures used to quantify nitrification inhibition kinetics in wastewater. Parameters obtained in the lab experiments will be incorporated into previously developed nitrification and N2O emissions models that account for both steps of nitrification, N2O production pathways, microbial N2O reduction, and gaseous diffusion. Plot experiments will be conducted over two consecutive growing seasons at the UMN ROC in Rosemount, MN in long-term research plots split into subplot treatments. Each main plot will first be randomly sub-divided by N rate so that each subplot will receive the same total N rate during the growing season, with N rate levels of 0, 7.5, 15, 20 and 25 g N m-2. Each N rate treatment will then be randomly sub-divided into two timing treatment sub-subplots consisting of (a) a single pre-plant urea application, or (b) two split post-plant urea applications. Soil-to-atmosphere N2O fluxes will be measured using chamber methods.

3. Progress Report:
Obj 1: We have completed three years of data collection at two sites measuring changes in soil carbon and measuring N2O and CO2 emission from plots with differing levels of stover removal. The results will be reported at a Sun Grant conference in October and submitted for publication within the next 6 months. A calibrated/validated winter cover crop model was used to develop regression relationships that, with GIS mapping capabilities, enabled an estimate of aboveground biomass yield of a winter rye cover crop, intended for cellulosic biofuel, after/before corn/soybeans across the US Corn-Soybean Belt. We are in the fourth year of a collaborative experiment with Univ. of WI, to measure productivity and environmental impact of kura clover living mulch forage cropping systems. An experiment has been initiated under a center pivot at Rosemount where we had previously established a new kura clover crop. Treatments were imposed in spring 2012. Obj 2: Charred and uncharred wood pellets were applied to triplicate field plots in Rosemount, MN. Initial data collection has occurred for the pre- and post-application soil chemistries and weekly greenhouse gas (GHG) flux monitoring is ongoing. The ARS Lab in New Orleans, LA created a sequence of biochars using lignin, almond shells, and hardwood at 4 temperatures (350, 500, 650, and 800 oC). Lab incubations were established examining impact of these biochars on GHG production. Greenhouse bench studies were established to examine the impact of a variety of biochar x soil x crop combinations on crop growth. New on-farm collaborators have been identified and the first year of data from these studies are being compiled. Obj 3: A series of lab incubation experiments were conducted to determine the potential for accumulation of nitrite as an intermediate product of nitrification and corresponding N2O production rates under a range of fertilizer addition rates using anhydrous ammonia, urea, and urea amended with chemical inhibitors in 2 different soils from corn production fields. An existing computer code describing soil N2O production and emissions was modified to allow for any arbitrary mathematical formulation to describe both steps of nitrification kinetic in soil as influenced by toxicity of free ammonia and/or nitrous acid. A new collaboration was established with the Univ. of New Hampshire Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space who will modify an existing N2O emissions (DNDC) model to account for nitrite accumulation during nitrification with comparison to our lab data. A replicated plot field experiment was established in Rosemount, MN to examine effects of fertilizer addition rate (6 levels) and timing (single vs. three split applications) on N2O emissions. This experiment was expanded in scope to compare both corn grown in a monoculture to corn in a corn/soybean rotation using external funds obtained from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

4. Accomplishments

Review Publications
Spokas, K.A., Novak, J.M., Stewart, C.E., Cantrell, K.B., Uchimiya, S.M., Dusaire, M.G., Ro, K.S. 2011. Qualitative analysis of volatile organic compounds on biochar. Chemosphere. 85(5):869-882.

Fujinuma, R., Venterea, R.T., Rosen, C.J. 2011. Broadcast urea reduces N2O emissions but increases NO emissions compared with conventional and shallow-applied anhydrous ammonia in a coarse-textured soil. Journal of Environmental Quality. 40(6):1806-1815.

Bierman, P., Rosen, C., Venterea, R.T., Lamb, J. 2012. Survey of nitrogen fertilizer use on corn in Minnesota. Agricultural Systems. 109(1):43-52.

Venterea, R.T., Parkin, T.B. 2012. Quantifying biases in non-steady state chamber measurements of soil-atmosphere gas exchange. In: Liebig, M., Follett, R., Franzluebbers, A., Editors. Managing Agricultural Greenhouse Gases: Coordinated Agricultural Research through GRACEnet to Address our Changing Climate. Waltham, MA: Academic Press. p. 327-343.

Burger, M., Venterea, R.T. 2011. Effects of nitrogen fertilizer types on nitrous oxide emissions. In: Guo, L. et al., editors. Understanding Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agricultural Management. ACS Symposium Series, Washington, DC: American Chemical Society. p. 179-202. DOI: 10.1021/bk-2011-1072.ch011.

Decock, C., Chung, H., Venterea, R.T., Leakey, A.B., Six, J. 2012. Elevated CO2 and O3 modify N turnover rates, but not N2O emissions. Journal of Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 51(1):104-114.

Williams, M.R., Feyereisen, G.W., Folmar, G.J., Lin, H.S. 2010. Experimental system for simulating a natural soil temperature profile during freeze-thaw cycles. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 26(5):843-848.

Williams, M.R., Feyereisen, G.W., Beegle, D.B., Shannon, R.D., Folmar, G.J., Bryant, R.B. 2011. Manure application under winter conditions: Nutrient runoff and leaching losses. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. 54(3):891-899.

Venterea, R.T., Maharjan, B., Dolan, M.S. 2011. Fertilizer source and tillage effects on yield-scaled nitrous oxide emissions in a corn cropping system. Journal of Environmental Quality. 40(5):1521-1531.

Weyers, S.L., Spokas, K.A. 2011. Impact of biochar on earthworm populations: A review. Applied and Environmental Soil Science. DOI: 10.1155/2011/541592.

Schultz, N., Griffis, T.J., Lee, X., Baker, J.M. 2011. Identification and correction of spectral contamination in 2H/1H and 18O/16O measured in leaf, stem, and soil water. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. 25:3360-3368.

Baxter, R.E., Feyereisen, G.W., Yanling, Y., Richard, T.L. 2011. Winter crop and residue biomass potential in China. Biofuels. 2(5):515-528.

Baker, J.M., Follett, R.F. 2012. Potential GRACEnet linkages with other GHG and soil carbon research and monitoring programs. In: Liebig, M., Follett, R., Franzluebbers, A. (Eds.). Managing Agricultural Greenhouse Gases: Coordinated Agrucultural Research through GRACEnet to Address our Changing Climate. Waltham, MA: Academic Press. p. 457-466.

Gitelson, A., Peng, Y., Masek, J., Rundquist, D., Verma, S., Suyker, A., Baker, J.M., Hatfield, J.L., Meyers, T. 2012. Remote estimation of crop gross primary production with Landsat data. Remote Sensing of Environment. 121:404-414.

Spokas, K.A., Bogner, J., Chanton, J. 2011. A process-based inventory model for landfill CH4 emissions inclusive of seasonal soil microclimate and CH4 oxidation. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences. Available:

Spokas, K.A., Cantrell, K.B., Novak, J.M., Archer, D.W., Ippolito, J.A., Collins, H.P., Boateng, A.A., Lima, I.M., Lamb, M.C., Mcaloon, A.J., Lentz, R.D., Nichols, K.A. 2012. Biochar: A synthesis of its agronomic impact beyond carbon sequestration. Journal of Environmental Quality. 41(4):973-989.

Gesch, R.W., Archer, D.W., Spokas, K.A. 2012. Can using polymer-coated seed reduce the risk of poor soybean emergence in no-tillage soil? Field Crops Research. 125:109-116.

Parkin, T.B., Venterea, R.T., Hargreaves, S.K. 2012. Calculating the detection limits of chamber-based soil greenhouse gas flux measurements. Journal of Environmental Quality. 41(3):705-715. DOI:10.2134/jeq2011.0394.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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