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ARS Home » Plains Area » Brookings, South Dakota » Integrated Cropping Systems Research » Research » Research Project #430894

Research Project: Soil and Crop Management for Enhanced Soil Health, Resilient Cropping Systems, and Sustainable Agriculture in the Northern Great Plains

Location: Integrated Cropping Systems Research

Project Number: 3080-12620-005-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 9, 2016
End Date: Aug 8, 2021

Objective 1: Evaluate no-till production practices using diverse crop rotations and cover crops to manage soil in a holistic manner, improve farming efficiency (increase unit output/unit input) and sustain soil productivity. Objective 2: Integrate soil and crop management practices for more sustainable agricultural systems applicable regionally and across a wide range of environmental conditions.

Healthy soil is fundamental to all plant and animal life, therefore, proper management of soil resources is essential. Recent concerns regarding global climate change as related to soil health and crop production are increasingly driving scientific research relevant to our customers. Producers in the northern Great Plains can utilize several management options that may improve soil health and ecosystem services including: no-till soil management, maintaining crop residues, diversifying crop rotations, and establishing cover crops. A region as variable as the northern Great Plains requires extensive research on how to best implement these and other beneficial management practices to improve sustainability. To address these challenges, it is important to understand how soil and crop management practices directly and indirectly influence the soil-water-air environment. Our previous research identified management options that more efficiently utilize inputs (including water, nutrients, pesticides, labor, and fuel), showing that integration of multiple practices often produced more than additive benefits. In this project, we seek to integrate multiple management practices to result in resilient agricultural systems that are valid across a wide range of environmental conditions. We expect that this research will provide multiple systems services such as increased soil health, conservation of natural resources, improved crop yields and quality, and development of habitat for insects and wildlife, while maintaining or improving economic sustainability for producers. Transfer of these integrated production systems to our customers through scientific publications, management guides, field day presentations, partnership with action agencies, and other mechanisms will lead to increased production efficiency, improved soil resource conservation, positive ecosystem services, and decreased environmental costs. The project seeks to (a) determine useful metrics for quantifying ecosystem services and environmental costs (particularly for soil biology and soil organic matter) and (b) quantify differences between systems to provide information about synergisms and trade-offs in the studied systems.