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ARS Home » Plains Area » Brookings, South Dakota » Integrated Cropping Systems Research » Research » Research Project #431017

Research Project: Assessing Soil Health to Increase Production Sustainability

Location: Integrated Cropping Systems Research

Project Number: 3080-12620-005-05-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Dec 1, 2017
End Date: Sep 30, 2019

Objective:
Using the Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) and/or the Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health (CASH), evaluate the impact on soil health of soil and crop management practices including crop diversity, cover crops and no-till soil management. Demonstrate application of these assessment tools on select on-farm locations to provide a measure of current and alternative production practices that improve the sustainability of cropping systems in the Northern Great Plains.

Approach:
Existing data from long-term experiments will be utilized to analyze the impact of diversifying crop rotations on soil physical, chemical, and biological properties. Data includes information from 16 crop years from plots cropped to (a) 2 yr corn-soybean and (b) 4 yr corn-soybean with small grains and short season legumes. The analysis will be performed by inputting select soil physical, chemical and biological measurements into the SMAF and CASH frameworks to assess soil health. This assessment will provide a scorecard by which to determine those cropping practices that produce the largest favorable changes in soil health. This information will be used to develop new experiments designed, implemented, and conducted in cooperation with producers. On-farm experiments will evaluate transitions to more sustainable management practices to include diversified crop rotations and cover crops. Soil physical, chemical and biological measurements will be used to assess the potential for these practices to impact soil health in the short term.