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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Morris, Minnesota » Soil Management Research » Research » Research Project #430232

Research Project: A Novel Management Approach to Increase Productivity, Resilience, and Long-term Sustainability of Cropping Systems in the Northern Great Plains

Location: Soil Management Research

Project Number: 5060-21220-007-01-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2016
End Date: Mar 31, 2021

At the current rates of soil and nutrient loss in the northern Great Plains and upper Midwest, long-term productivity of crops will decrease; thus, requiring larger amounts of agricultural inputs to maintain or increase yields. Consequently, diversifying existing cropping systems to maintain agricultural sustainability and food security are needed now. Our goal is innovation through altering current systems for improved productivity and reduction of inputs and cost. Innovation will consist of: i) develop and improve seeding systems of cover crops or double and relay crops in standing corn and soybean, ii) determine N credits and nutrient cycling of cover crops in corn-soybean and wheat-soybean systems to reduce fertilizer costs, iii) improve land use efficiency by temporal intensification of cropping systems with the inclusion of dual-purpose crops (camelina and field pennycress) as cover crops and/or cash oilseed crops, and iv) evalute and demonstrate on-farm double- and relay-cropping and intercropping in corn-, soybean-, and wheat-based systems. The overall goal of this project is to increase awareness and adoption of sustainable cropping systems through focused research by a broadly diverse team of scientists at three Land Grant colleges, one USDA lab, and several commodity crop organizations.

Objective 1. a) Estimate N credits from cover crops or evidence of increased N-use efficiency by subsequent crops. Phosphorus cycling and losses in cover crops in tilled and no-till systems. b) Modify planters, or improve seeding strategies for establishing cover crops in standing corn and soybean at different growth stages. Modification will result in improved seed to soil contact without damaging corn or soybean stands. c) Develop a cover crop aerial seeding decision aid to seed cover crops in standing corn and soybean will be developed. A decision aid is needed to estimate the probability of successful establishment based on rainfall prediction and seeding date. d) Characterize microclimate under various crop growth stages to optimize prediction models. Objective 2. a) Double- and relay-crop winter camelina and pennycress in corn-soybean, and wheat-soybean systems. Establish winter camelina and pennycress in standing corn and soybean as dual cover crop and cash crop before the next year's soybean crop. b) Determine pollinator activity/visitation during the spring in camelina and pennycress. c) Intercrop corn and alfalfa (cover crop, cash crop, gain a year in alfalfa establishment). Objective 3. a) Replicate two on-farm studies in each state. Each of the systems above will be planted and used as demonstration and education tools for extension. Organize three field days at each site to demonstrate novel cropping systems in place. b) Organize workshops and extension activities at different towns in each state for informal question and answers with growers. Each meeting will be with 12 to 15 growers. c) Post written info and short videos on the NIFA-AFRI-CAP and extension web pages and through the Cooperative Extension Systems. d) Integrate economic analysis of the above objectives and sub objectives into a decision tool and valuing ecosystem services provided by cover crops.