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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Soil, Water & Air Resources Research » Research » Research Project #432053

Research Project: Managing Carbon and Nutrients in Midwestern U.S. Agroecosystems for Enhanced Soil Health and Environmental Quality

Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Project Number: 5030-12000-015-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 6, 2016
End Date: Oct 4, 2021

Objective 1: Assess humic products and cover crops as management options for promoting soil carbon pools, nutrient cycling for crop growth, and increased yield. Objective 2: Assess the effectiveness of grass buffers, blind inlets, and carbon-based reactive barriers in the form of filter socks for phosphorus management. Objective 3: Quantitatively characterize soil health and crop productivity responses to carbon input from crop sequences and carbon losses from tillage, crop residue management and harvest.

To enhance management of soil carbon, laboratory analyses for specific carbohydrates, amino compounds, phenols, and fatty acids will be used to distinguish between labile and recalcitrant fractions of soil organic matter (SOM). Effects of applying humic products and cover crops on short- (e.g., nutrient cycling and soil structure) and long-term (e.g., carbon sequestration) soil changes will be determined. Humic product application will be evaluated as a mitigation strategy for SOM loss due to excessive crop residue removal for bioenergy production. Filter socks filled with wood chips and bark will be evaluated as a means to efficiently catch dissolved and sediment-bound phosphorus moving with runoff water into surface inlets, subsurface drainage systems, and ultimately natural water bodies. Process-level knowledge from laboratory and plot-scale research will enhance development of site-specific subfield management strategies for increasing producer profitability and providing sustainable feedstock supplies at field and landscape scales. Several different crop rotations utilizing corn, soybean, alfalfa, wheat, rye, field pea, and tillage radish will be evaluated with various levels of stover harvest. No-tillage, strip-tillage, and chisel-plow management as well as effects of biochar will be determined. Effects on nutrient cycling, soil carbon stocks, and soil health (using the Soil Management Assessment Framework) will be quantified. Project results will provide critical information needed to elucidate the effects of crop residue management and carbon-based amendments on soil physical and biochemical properties, economic returns, and long-term sustainability of corn-based Midwestern cropping systems.