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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research » Research » Research Project #429673

Research Project: Sustainable Agro-Ecosystems that Control Soil Erosion and Enhance the Environment

Location: Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research

2016 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The long-term objective of this project is to develop environmentally viable practices, guidelines, and cropping systems that farmers and land managers can apply to control water and wind erosion, enhance soil quality and sustain productivity. Specifically, over the next three years we will focus on the following two objectives. Objectives 1: Determine temporal variations of soil characteristics in native grasslands, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands, and croplands, and contribute to multi-location ARS GRACEnet project. Subobjective 1A: Characterize physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils as affected by alternative management and land uses for cotton production. Subobjective 1B: Integrate physical, chemical, and biological properties for adaptation of the Precision Agricultural Landscape Modelling System (PALMS) model. Objective 2: Quantify the effects and interactions of wind and water erosion on agricultural landscapes, including physical, chemical, and biological properties of eroded sediments. Subobjective 2A: Quantify wind and water erosion on eroding landscapes, and characterize physical, chemical, and biological properties of the eroded sediments. Subobjective 2B: Develop improved methods and instrumentation for assessing erosion rates and processes, and quantify abrasion damage and recovery of cotton seedlings from wind-blown sand.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Information will be provided on how soil quality and functioning are affected under alternative management, which includes conversion of continuous cotton to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), perennial patures with warm-season grasses for livestock cotton production systems or cotton rotations with other crops. Management impacts will be evaluated based on several soil quality and functional attributes such as soil water infiltration, aggregate stability, carbon sequestration, soil microbial community structure and diversity, and enzymes involved in nutrient cycling. C sequestration assessments will contribute to the ARS GRACEnet (Greenhouse Gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement network) project. This project will also quantify interactions of wind and water erosion on agricultural landscapes and will determine physical, chemical, and biological properties of eroded sediments. Enzyme activities, microbial community composition, and chemical characteristics of fine particle dust from agicultural soils will be used to identify the sources and origin of dust. The time fractions equivalent method for determining the threshold condition for soil movement in the field under natural wind and soil conditions will be evaluated and further refined. Morphological traits that promote resistance to injury caused by abrasion of plants by sand particles during wind storms will be identified and the most resistant varieties of selected common crops will be determined for enhancing crop productivity in this region.

3. Progress Report:
This report is for a bridging project with research activities during October 2016 until present (summer 2016). Our new project plan has been approved and has been given the Project No: 3096-12000-012-00D and Accession No: 431551. Project Summary: Due to extreme climatic fluctuations we had to modify and adapt our research activities to include “climate change” effects on soil health and water availability. This region experienced a drought/heat wave in 2011–2012 where only 40 mm of precipitation, i.e., about 10%, was received over a 10-month period, from November 2010 to August 2011, compared to the long-term average of 373 mm, and this drought was accompanied by a corresponding hot spring and summer period. However, in 2015 this region received 750 mm, which was 58 % more than the long-term average. We continue our soil samplings to evaluate the effects of these intense drought/heat waves cycles to quantify their effect on soil health. We participated in an initiative on “National Soil Health Assessment” sponsored by a new Soil Health division of NRCS, and the Soil Health Institute and Noble Foundation. Our role was to advise on the use of enzyme activities as indicators of soil biogeochemical potential for an assessment on 10,000 soil samples taken across the nation to evaluate soil health as affected by agricultural management and rangeland. Our research related to precision agriculture for management of cotton cropping systems at the production-scale led to significant deliveries including improvements in a model that optimizes interactions between soil, plant, weather, and agronomic inputs. We merged two models (PALMS and Cotton2K, both written in the Fortran language) that will expand our ability to evaluate how inputs of water and nitrogen can be used to increase lint yield production using site-specific recommendations. We published four peer-reviewed journal papers describing the PALMS model and its application to the major two soil types in the Texas High Plains. The extended and prolonged drought increased the overall fallow periods during the past six years, and our research on wind erosion has advanced significantly. Wind eroded sediment collection continues on the watersheds at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico. In addition, we used our laboratory wind tunnel for a test of whether diapausing soil-borne aquatic invertebrates could survive the process of sand abrasion and transport on abraded sediments that would allow dissemination by wind eroded sediments. Viable organisms from all seven species tested were recovered in coarse sediments that typically travel only meters in the field, sediments < 100 µm in diameter that typically are deposited within a few 100 m from the source, and in fine sediments that may be transported tens to hundreds of kilometers on the wind. We developed and successfully used the Time Fraction Equivalence Method to study the post-fire recovery process by monitoring temporal variations in wind erosion and threshold velocity of a burned grass field located in Lubbock County, Texas. Soil samples from four unrelated studies have been prepared for Pu extraction and analysis. Work continues on obtaining 137Cs activities of related soil split samples. We anticipate analysis of the samples for Pu activities early next FY at the radiochemistry laboratory of the Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado. An invited review paper was published in 2015 providing an overview of the knowledge of microbes traveling in dust at global and local scales.

4. Accomplishments

5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations:
Scientist from this unit gave a presentation to visitors from the Early Career Workshop-TTU-Climate Science center at the Cropping Systems Research Lab (CSRL) in June 2016. The early career scientists came to a workshop at Texas Tech University to gain knowledge and experience in conducting climate change research in their programs at different universities and government agencies across the nation. We hosted several STEM related activities and workshops to train middle and high school teachers to engage students in science.

Review Publications
Lehman, R.M., Cambardella, C.A., Stott, D.E., Acosta Martinez, V., Manter, D.K., Buyer, J.S., Maul, J.E., Smith, J.L., Collins, H.P., Halvorson, J.J., Kremer, R.E., Lundgren, J.G., Ducey, T.F., Jin, V.L., Karlen, D.L. 2015. Understanding and enhancing soil health: the solution for reversing soil degradation. Sustainability. 7(1):988-1027.
Acosta Martinez, V., Van Pelt, R.S., Moore-Kucera, J., Baddock, M., Zobeck, T.M. 2015. Microbiology of Wind-eroded Sediments: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Aeolian Research. 18:99-113.
Kelly, C., Calderon, F.J., Acosta Martinez, V., Mikha, M.M., Benjamin, J.G., Rutherford, D., Rostad, C. 2015. Switchgrass biochar effects on soil microbial dynamics and wheat yield in two soils from different regions. Pedosphere. 25(3): 329–342.
Webb, N.P., Herrick, J.E., Van Zee, J.W., Courtright, E.M., Hugenholtz, C.H., Zobeck, T.M., Okin, G., Barchyn, T.E., Billings, B.J., Boyd, R., Clingan, S., Cooper, B., Duniway, M., Derner, J.D., Fox, F.A., Havstad, K.M., Heilman, P., Laplante, V.K., Ludwig, N., Metz, L.J., Nearing, M.A., Norfleet, M., Pierson Jr, F.B., Sanderson, M.A., Sharratt, B.S., Steiner, J.L., Tatarko, J., Tedela, N., Toledo, D.N., Unnasch, R., Van Pelt, R.S., Wagner, L.E. 2016. The National Wind Erosion Research Network: Building a standardized long-term data resource for aeolian research, modeling and land management. Aeolian Research. 22:23-36.
Stout, J.E. 2015. Diurnal Patterns of Blowing Dust on the Llano Estacado. Journal of Arid Environments. 122:85-92.
Goebel, T.S., Lascano, R.J., Davis, T. 2016. Phosphate Sorption in Water by Several cationic Polyer flocculants. Journal of Agricultural Chemistry and Environment. 5:45-51.