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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #436255

Research Project: Farmable Vegetative Buffers

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Project Number: 5062-12130-007-019-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2019
End Date: Mar 31, 2021

Develop and test buffers for agricultural drainage ditches composed of perennial vegetation that can sustain row crop production while protecting adjacent waters.

A field experiment will be established with 4 treatments: three types of living mulch (kura clover, Kentucky bluegrass, and a kura/bluegrass mix) and a permanent grass buffer, to compare 1) their effectiveness as buffers, 2) cost, and 3) relative ease of management. There will be 4 replications of each, for a total of 16 plots, each of them 16.5 ft x 100 ft. Planting of living mulch and grass plots will occur in spring 2017. Surface cover will be assessed for uniformity and total biomass at regular intervals during summer 2017 and spring 2018, and the seeded buffers will be mowed and sprayed as needed to control weeds and promote lateral spreading. In 2018 and 2019, all plots will be zone-tilled and corn will be planted into them, following mowing and suppression. Grain yields will be measured at the conclusion of each growing season, and the percentage of ground cover will be measured 4 -6 times per year, using photographs and image analysis. Seed production – In 2017, a 40-acre field of established kura clover will be harvested for seed, with a 2 factor, 3 level experimental design to determine the optimal combine settings and vegetative dryness needed to maximize harvested seed yield. Hydroseeding will be tested against the conventional practice of direct drilling in a two- factor plot level experiment, where the second factor will be post-planting irrigation. The primary variables to be measured will be rate and uniformity of canopy development. N availability – Conventional N rate trials will be conducted for corn in an established kura clover living mulch at the Rosemount ROC, for both injected anhydrous and band-applied urea. In addition to yield data, soil nitrate and ammonia concentrations will be measured on soil samples taken at intervals throughout the non-frozen portion of the year.