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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Research Project #425540

Research Project: Sustainable Production, Profit, and Environmental Stewardship through Conservation Systems

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Project Number: 6010-12610-005-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: May 2, 2013
End Date: May 1, 2018

Objective 1. Develop conservation systems that integrate cover crop management and equipment for maximum soil protection and weed suppression. Sub-objective 1a. Develop methods and equipment for conservation agriculture across different farm scales for sustainable crop production. Sub-objective 1b. Develop conservation systems that optimize both timing of cash crop planting and cover crop management for combining operations. Sub-objective 1c. Determine optimum herbicide management intensity, cover crop biomass, and soil applied herbicide placement on weed control and yield in conservation agriculture corn, cotton, soybean and peanut. Sub-objective 1d. Evaluate weed control and yield in high-residue conservation vegetable production integrated with conventional polyethylene and alternative mulch systems. Objective 2. Develop, evaluate, and provide decision support for cropping systems that increase soil organic matter accumulation, enhance productivity, and maximize profitability of degraded southeastern soils. Sub-objective 2a. Evaluate cover crop management to enhance biomass production and integrate in cropping systems to improve soil productivity through increased soil organic carbon. Sub-objective 2b. Evaluate N response for various crops across different tillage systems with and without cover crops, including legumes. Objective 3. Integrate existing production agriculture and conservation system research using analysis tools and/or models to evaluate profitability and risk associated with conventional and conservation systems. Sub-objective 3a. Develop an economic model adaptable to different field level experiments to determine the optimal conservation cropping system that maximizes net return to crop production accounting for various environmental, production, and economic constraints. Sub-objective 3b. Develop and apply meta-analytic methods to evaluate the impact of converting from a production system without cover crops to a conservation tillage system using cover crops on crop yields and risk.

Research objectives on this project are specifically designed to develop conservation systems that will improve soil quality, conserve natural resources, and increase production efficiency, considering input costs and profitability. These objectives will be achieved through equipment development, coordinated plot studies, and development of economic models. Major areas of focus include: (1) develop equipment, such as rollers for walk behind tractors and row cleaners designed for high residue cover crop systems to maintain residue on the soil surface to maximize soil protection; (2) examine herbicide management used in conjunction with cover crops to maximize weed suppression for row crops and vegetable crops; (3) evaluate cropping systems that include alternative fertilizer sources, such as poultry litter and legumes, compared to commercial nitrogen fertilizer in tillage systems designed to enhance soil organic matter accumulation, crop productivity, and grower profitability across southeastern soils; and (4) develop tools to assess how conventional and conservation systems affect profitability and risk using economic models and meta-analytic methods.