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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #435046

Research Project: Enhancing Sustainability of Mid-Atlantic Agricultural Systems Using Agroecological Principles and Practices

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-21660-005-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 15, 2018
End Date: Aug 14, 2023

OBJECTIVE 1: Identify and elucidate agroecological principles that drive the function of grain and forage cropping systems and quantify ecosystem services. ' Sub-objective 1.A. Compare factors controlling crop performance in long-term organic and conventional cropping systems. ' Sub-objective 1.B. Evaluate soil function and ecosystem services in long-term organic and conventional cropping systems. ' Sub-objective 1.C. Identify factors controlling soil biological community structure and its relationship to soil functions and the provision of ecosystem services in organic and conventional cropping systems. ' Sub-objective 1.D. Conduct integrated analyses to assess the impacts of organic and conventional cropping systems on the provision of ecosystem services and overall system performance. OBJECTIVE 2: Develop technologies and management strategies to improve productivity, enhance soil and water conservation, improve efficiency of nutrient cycling and support food safety and nutritional security goals for grain-based and horticultural cropping systems. ' Sub-objective 2.A. Screen and breed cover crop germplasm to improve winter hardiness, biomass production and early vigor in legumes, grasses, and brassicas, and disease resistance and nitrogen fixation in legumes. ' Sub-objective 2.B. Develop optimal cover crop-based agronomic practices for improving nutrient and water availability and use efficiency, soil health, system resilience, production and economics in reduced-tillage field corn production. ' Sub-objective 2.C. Develop strategies to improve beneficial and safe use of organic amendments in horticultural crop production. OBJECTIVE 3: Collaborate with the Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory to operate and maintain the Lower Chesapeake Bay LTAR network site using technologies and practices agreed upon by LTAR leadership. Contribute to LTAR working groups and common experiments. Submit relevant data with appropriate metadata to the LTAR Information Ecosystem.

Approaches to identifying and elucidating agroecological principles include investigating the following variables within the Beltsville long-term Farming Systems Project that compares two conventional and three organic rotations, and associated projects: crop performance, soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas fluxes, soil microbiological community structure, and integrated analyses that evaluate overall systems performance. Approaches to developing component strategies include: incorporating legumes into organic crop rotations to maximize nitrogen fixation, composting that provides a productive and safe amendment for organic agriculture, integrating cover crop and manure management practices, reducing tillage in organic systems.