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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit » Research » Research Project #425611

Research Project: Multi-Objective Optimization of a Profitable and Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture to Produce Food and Fiber in a Changing Climate

Location: Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit

Project Number: 2072-21410-004-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 12, 2013
End Date: Sep 27, 2018

This research will identify crop rotation practices used in Pacific Northwest (PNW) grass seed production systems over the past decade and quantify the benefits of crop rotation diversity in promoting long stand life and high probability of successful establishment of new stands. It will also determine the value of biochar from syngas production in improving soil chemistry and quality. These data will be used to analyze farm management options that promote sustainable and profitable farming complying with environmental regulations, making wise-use of natural and crop production resources. This work will address the cumulative effects of crop management practices, field application of char, and both current and proposed conservation programs at the landscape scale, and as part of Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), determine whether the specific combinations of practices, placement, and timing will achieve desired environmental goals. These studies will be conducted in a region of highly diverse cropping systems, complex hydrology and landuse patterns, and numerous mandates to meet natural resource quality standards, including the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Objective 1. Quantify the impact of specific management practices in forage seed and cereal production systems that impact productivity and profitability. Sub-objective 1.1. Assess the impact of diverse crop rotations on reducing input costs and breaking weed and disease cycles associated with crop diversity that increase crop and soil productivity. Sub-objective 1.2. Quantify the impact of on-farm energy produced from crop residues and utilization of the biochar co-product as a soil amendment on energy-related input costs, soil quality, and soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics. Sub-objective 1.3. Identify microbial products and populations that enhance agricultural productivity by improving soil health. Objective 2. Utilize quantitative data produced in Objective 1 to develop alternative sets of management practices that optimize farm profitability and sustainability. Sub-objective 2.1. Utilize field data to calibrate SWAT and other complex modeling tools and quantify multiple environmental effects of on-farm energy production, stand duration, tillage and nitrogen use in management of seed and cereal crops. Sub-objective 2.2. Evaluate the effects of differing mixtures of forage seed and cereal management practices on farm-scale profitability across a diverse landscape and identify optimal sets of practices appropriate in contrasting production environments.

Meeting societal expectations for stable supplies of food and fiber while maintaining natural resource quality requires knowledge of trade-offs among multiple, often competing, objectives. Profitability along with long-term sustainability and ecosystem trade-offs are impacted by production decisions, regulations, policy, and purchasing preferences. This research project will develop information on crop management practices that promote long-duration seed crop stand life and successful establishment of new stands, the potential of char produced by gasification of crop residues as a soil amendment and value-added farm product, and will culminate in optimization analyses utilizing these data so producers and policy-makers can be given sets of management options that achieve productivity, sustainability, and profitability in different ecosystems and under alternative climate change scenarios to help bring about economic sustainability at the farm level and ecosystem services at the landscape level. The information and technologies developed within these Pacific Northwest (PNW) agroecosystems are integral parts of Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP) and GRACEnet (Greenhouse Gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement network). This approach will be applied to analyze biofuel production in the Upper Mississippi River and Columbia River Basins, contrasting agroecosystems.