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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #421567


Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Project Number: 3064-11120-002-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jun 20, 2011
End Date: Dec 31, 2015

OBJECTIVE 1: Develop management strategies to decrease net greenhouse gas emissions from cold, semiarid agroecosystems, as a contributor to the ARS GRACEnet project. OBJECTIVE 2: Develop soil management guidelines to improve soil biophysical properties needed for sustainable production. OBJECTIVE 3: As part of the LTAR network, and in concert with similar long-term, land-based research infrastructure in Northern Great Plains Region, use the Northern Plains LTAR site to improve the observational capabilities and data accessibility of the LTAR network, to support research to sustain or enhance agricultural production and environmental quality in agroecosystems characteristic of the Northern Great Plains region, as per the LTAR site responsibilities and other information outlined in the 2012 USDA Long- LTAR Network Request for Information (RFI) (, and the LTAR Shared Research Strategy (, a living document that serves as a roadmap for LTAR implementation. Participation in the LTAR network includes research and data management in support of the ARS GRACEnet and/or Livestock GRACEnet projects (

Concurrent trends of increased demand for agricultural products, increasingly scarce nonrenewable resources, and accelerating climate change have underscored the need for new and innovative agroecosystems that are resilient, highly productive, effectively utilize renewable resources, and minimize damage to the environment. Determining the relative sustainability of new and innovative agroecosystems requires a detailed understanding of management effects on emerging ecosystem services. Given this context, the goal of this project is to improve understanding of management impacts on greenhouse gas mitigation, carbon storage, and soil biological function. Over a time period of approximately five years, research activities will 1) develop management strategies to decrease net greenhouse gas emissions from cold, semiarid agroecosystems (Objective 1), and develop soil management guidelines to improve soil biophysical properties needed for sustainable production (Objective 2). Approaches to conduct these research activities will include field, laboratory, and greenhouse experiments. Anticipated products from this research include peer-reviewed publications, popular press articles, and web pages. Collectively, these products will serve a broad range of clientele (e.g., agricultural producers, personnel from public and private sector organizations, and scientists), and will contribute to an overall outcome of increased understanding of agroecosystem effects on emerging ecosystem services, with the intent of improving agricultural sustainability. There is a need to quantify management impacts on key metrics associated with ecosystem services, and to assign value to such services by relating to associated production and economic outcomes from sustainable intensification. Our hypothesis is that agricultural production systems characterized by conservation agriculture principles will enhance ecosystem services compared to ‘business as usual’ management practices. We will test this hypothesis by evaluating ecosystem services in contrasting treatments at small plot, field, and farm scales at multiple LTAR sites. Evaluations at both scales will compare ‘business as usual’ management practices with land management systems characterized by one or more principles of conservation agriculture (e.g., increased crop diversity, livestock integration, continuous soil cover, etc.) which match potential sustainable intensification strategies. Each paired comparison will be conducted on similar landscapes and soil types. Measurements will include relevant production and economic metrics and focus on properties and processes associated with provisioning, supporting, and regulating services provided by agroecosystems. Common protocols will be developed for production metrics and all soil measurement procedures will follow common GRACEnet protocols at all locations (Objective 3).