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Research Project: Integrating Animal and Industrial Enterprise Byproducts in Gulf Atlantic Coastal Plain Cropping Systems for Enhancing Productivity, Efficiency, and Resiliency of Agroecosystems

Location: Southeast Watershed Research

Project Number: 6048-11130-005-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Nov 6, 2018
End Date: Nov 5, 2023

Objective:
Objective 1. Develop diversified rotational cropping systems for an integrated crop-livestock production system that includes mixed cropping, provide year-round vegetative cover, habitat for arthropod natural enemies and pollinators, and mitigate crop metal toxicity and persistence of antimicrobial resistance. Sub-objective 1.1. Compare G x E x M effects (where G is taken as crop diversity/rotation – not genetic engineering) on crop productivity and soil and forage quality in a small integrated crop-livestock farming system setting of: 1). An aspirational rotational cropping system that includes summer cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), peanut (Arachis hypogaea), summer and winter forages, and a winter oil-rich biofuel feedstock cash crop, in a full year companion cropping system with phosphorus need-based broiler litter fertilization, and reduced tillage under irrigated and dryland conditions (ASP); 2). A business as usual rotational cropping system that includes summer cotton-peanut-corn (Zea mays L.) with a winter rye (Secale cereale) cover crop that is chemically killed and allowed to decompose on the soil surface, with nitrogen need-based broiler litter fertilization, and reduced tillage under irrigated and dryland conditions (BAU-1); and 3). A business as usual rotational cropping system that includes summer cotton-peanut-forage with a winter rye cover crop that is hayed as forage, with nitrogen need-based broiler litter fertilization, and reduced tillage under irrigated and dryland conditions (BAU-2). Sub-objective1.2. Incorporate native wildflowers in margins of fields in Sub-Objective 1.1 and assess effects on enhancing pest arthropod natural enemies and attracting pollinators. Objective 2. Develop and test management strategies for an integrated crop-livestock production system that incorporates flue gas desulfurized gypsum (FGDG) with broiler litter (BL) in southeastern cropping systems to reduce phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N) and metals loss in runoff, manage subsoil acidity, and reduce persistence of resistance to antimicrobial agents. Sub-objective 2.1. Compare the effects of FGDG and FGDG + BL on crop yield; P, N, and metals loss in runoff; subsoil acidity; and SOM composition. Sub-objective 2.2. Compare the persistence of foodborne pathogens and bacteria with resistance to metals and antibiotics in cropping systems. Objective 3. Evaluate and quantify farm-level economic and ecosystem services benefits and risks associated with the use of broiler litter, flue gas desulfurized gypsum, and field edge arthropod habitat buffers for southeastern crop-livestock production systems. Sub-objective 3.1. Develop a five-year multi-practice planning scenarios using a cooperator’s farm (Wilson Farm WF) as a case study that compares net sustainable profit from Objective 1 cropping systems given the producer’s profit versus environmental goals. Sub-objective 3.2. Forecast cropping systems effects on runoff losses of water, sediment, C, N, P, S, and metals. Sub-objective 3.3. Integrate producer’s production, profit, and environmental goals to develop land use designs that optimize producer-desired outcomes.

Approach:
The overall goal of this project plan is to develop an integrated production system that provides increased flexibility for small-farm crop-livestock producers to diversify their production portfolio by enhancing the sustainability of ecosystem services delivered from landscapes owned or rented by their operation. We will implement plot-scale research to calibrate crop, environmental, geospatial, economic and whole-farm planning models to compare the performance potential of three enterprise scenarios over a five-year planning cycle. Project objectives will focus on six core subsystems affecting the sustainability of small Crop-livestock producers (Soils, Crops and Forages, Landscape, Livestock, Water, and Economic Sustainability). In Objective 1, plot-scale research under irrigated and dryland conditions will compare the performance of an Aspirational (ASP) full-year companion rotational cropping system that includes peanut, cotton, summer and winter forages, and a winter oil-rich biofuel feedstock, versus Business as usual (BAU)-1 summer peanut-cotton-corn rotation and BAU-2 summer peanut-cotton-forage rotation, both with a winter rye cover crop. Fertility management will include P-based (ASP) versus N-based (BAUs) application of Broiler litter (BL) supplemented with inorganic amendments as indicated by soil testing. All plots will be managed under strip-tillage and include field edge native wildflower habitat to enhance pollination and populations of pest arthropod natural enemies. Seasonal soil and plant sampling and analyses will be used for quantifying GxExM effects on productivity, forage and soil quality, and beneficial insect dynamics. In objective 2, we will modify an existing three-year plot-scale experiment of continuous summer corn and winter rye conventional tillage system that examined BL and Flue gas desulfurization gypsum (FGDG) effects on P, N, carbon (C) and metals loss in runoff, and yield. The BL and FGDG annual application rates will be reduced by two-thirds for three years followed by three years with no BL and FGDG amendments. Soil cores down to 100 cm were collected at the start and are collected at three-year intervals thereafter for detailed analyses of distribution of nutrients, soil acidity, and metals. We will track nutrient dynamics in the soil, runoff, and plants from residual sources of BL and FGDG. We will also investigate factors influencing persistence of antimicrobial resistance and crop metal toxicities. In objective 3, data acquired under objectives 1 and 2 will be used to compare farm-level economic and ecosystem services benefits and risks associated with the three cropping systems (ASP + 2BAU). Economic and environmental models will be used to synthesize the five- and ten-year outcomes of each cropping system under four weather and two land use scenarios. All research within SEWRL is conducted as part of the ARS Long Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) Project. This NP 216 Project Plan is intended to augment NP 211 Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) research on crop-livestock production systems and develop an option suitable for inclusion as an LTAR ASP system.