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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research » Research » Research Project #429392

Research Project: Long-Term Soil and Crop Management can be Used to Adapt to Climate Change by Increasing Soil Health, Nitrogen Use Efficiency, and Productivity

Location: Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research

Project Number: 3012-11120-001-07-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2015
End Date: Sep 14, 2020

Agricultural management practices can have profound effects, both positive and negative, on the soil resource that cumulatively affect crop productivity. Long-term field research is essential to fully evaluating these impacts. One of the main research approaches to achieving the goal described below is the use of Long-Term Agro-Ecosystem Research (LTAR) conducted at the Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center (ARDEC) located near Fort Collins, Colorado, to monitor the effects of traditional and best-management/new agricultural practices on soil physical, chemical, and microbiological processes. New cropping systems and management practices will maintain and/or improve: i) crop yields and nutrient use efficiencies; ii) N and C stocks, microbial processes and iii) climate change mitigation (reduced emissions, C sequestration, and adaptation). A second approach is to repeat similar studies to test the previous findings about crop rotations and best management practices from the studies at ARDEC, at other Colorado State University research centers, or at farmer fields to compare how these new management practices and cropping systems perform in other regions. The goal is to evaluate the impact of current and improved land-use, agricultural management, and crop production systems to develop sustainable production systems that can adapt to and/or mitigate climate change. Aspects of sustainable production systems will include increased nutrient use efficiencies (especially nitrogen); reduced losses of reactive nitrogen; reduced emissions of greenhouse gases (especially N2O); increased soil microbial functioning, soil health and carbon sequestration; and resilience to climate variability.

This work will continue to evaluate the Long-Term Agro-Ecosystem Research. Five long-term rotations and new rotations including multicropping and cover crops will be evaluated, including an ongoing long-term study of GRACEnet field plots. This LTAR research will be utilized to: i) develop new cropping systems and best management practices that will increase fertilizer nitrogen use efficiencies and reduce losses of reactive nitrogen to the environment to protect air and water quality; ii) develop new cropping systems and best management practices with improved soil health and potential for climate change adaptation. In addition, if possible, work on producer fields that are cooperators with Colorado State University will be performed to evaluate how these new cropping systems and best management practices could contribute to increased productivity and soil health under commercial systems. These studies will be conducted on cropping systems receiving inorganic, organic, or inorganic and organic fertilizers. A nitrogen balance will be conducted in at least one of the studies by measuring different pools of N in the soil, crop N uptake, and N inputs. Greenhouse gases (GHG) will be monitored in at least one of the studies by using the chamber method to measure CO2, CH4, and N2O emissions. Soil carbon sequestration or losses will be measured by at least one of the studies by measuring the above-ground carbon component and different soil carbon pools. Soil health will be assessed by measuring changes in soil carbon content and effects on soil biology. Soil microbial function will be evaluated by measuring abundance of beneficial bacteria in the soil.