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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Research Project #434395

Research Project: Sustainable and Resilient Cropping Systems for Midwestern Landscapes

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Project Number: 5030-12210-003-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 5, 2018
End Date: Aug 4, 2023

Objective:
Objective 1: Quantify the effects of conventional and alternative corn-soybean based cropping systems on the factors and processes of nutrient cycling and nutrient-use efficiency. Sub-objectives: 1.1 Determine effects of conventional and alternative corn-soybean based cropping systems on soil nutrient dynamics and crop nutrient uptake and yield; and 1.2 Determine effects of organic cropping systems on soil carbon and nitrogen storage. Objective 2: Evaluate the effects of conventional and alternative corn-soybean based cropping systems, on soil water dynamics and drainage water nutrient transport. Sub-objectives: 2.1 Determine effects of fall-planted cover crops and no-tillage within conventional and alternative corn-soybean rotations on tile flow and drainage water nutrient concentrations; and 2.2 Determine effects of organic cropping systems on water quality and soil profile water storage. Objective 3: Determine the effects of conventional and alternative corn-soybean based cropping systems, on indicators of soil health. Sub-objectives: 3.1 Determine effects of organic cropping systems on soil health; and 3.2 Determine effects of fall-planted cover crops, relay crops, and no-tillage within conventional and alternative corn-soybean rotations on soil health. Objective 4: Operate and maintain the Upper Mississippi River Basin Experimental Watersheds LTAR network site using technologies and practices agreed upon by the LTAR leadership. Contribute to the LTAR working groups and common experiments as resources allow. Submit relevant data with appropriate metadata to the LTAR Information Ecosystem. Goals: 4.1 Implement the LTAR Common Experiment comparing conventional (BAU) and aspirational (ASP) cropping systems and the measurement of parameters to support analysis of sustainability and ecosystem services for these cropping systems; and 4.2 Develop improved capabilities for acquiring, storing, and providing data to the LTAR Network and the larger agricultural community.

Approach:
A combination of controlled experiments in the field and laboratory, tile drainage monitoring, and a variety of modeling techniques and statistical analyses will quantify the effects of 4R management (Right source, Right rate, Right time, and Right place) of nitrogen on nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur) cycling in a corn-soybean system (Objective 1). This same approach will be used to determine the ability of cover crops to reduce nitrate losses (Objective 2) and maintain soil health (Objective 3) in a corn-soybean system, and the efficacy of organic cropping systems to reduce nitrate losses (Objective 2) and enhance soil health (Objective 3). We will determine how fall-planted cover crops and no-tillage within conventional and alternative corn-soybean rotations affect tile drainage water flow and nutrient concentrations, and how drainage water quality and soil profile water storage may differ in organic systems. We will use several indicators of soil health, such as aggregate stability and nitrogen mineralization potential, to compare and contrast conventional corn-soybean based cropping systems, corn-soybean based systems that include cover crops, and organic systems that include extended rotations. These comparisons are conducted using experimental plots with individual subsurface (tile) drains that allow robust measurements of hydrologic and nutrient balances. The research contributes to the Long Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) effort to ascertain the sustainability of and ecosystem services for conventional, i.e., business as usual (BAU), and aspirational (ASP) cropping systems, improving capabilities for acquiring, storing, and providing data to the LTAR Network and the larger agricultural community (Objective 4).