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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #440891

Research Project: Soil, Crop, and Manure Biochemistry and Molecular Ecology: Bridging Knowledge Gaps in Microbiome Response to Management and Climate Change

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-12120-002-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 7, 2021
End Date: Jul 7, 2026

Objective 1: Determine the dispersal and activity patterns of fungi, bacteria and archaea with depth and across environmental gradients in agricultural systems and determine their impacts and influence on soil organic matter sequestration to inform better soil health management decisions. Objective 2: Develop a quantitative understanding of the impact of crop Genetics x Environmental context x Management strategies (G x E x M) on crop productivity as influenced by enhanced biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) and a fuller understanding of the soil and plant - microbiome symbiosis in leguminous cash and cover crop systems at local, long-term study sites and through LTAR collaborations. Sub-objective 2A: Study LTAR sites where legumes are grown in rotation with commodity crops to determine the factors that control regulation and efficiency of BNF and the net contribution of BNF nitrogen (N) to agroecosystems. Evaluations of the BAU and ASP cropping systems will be conducted. Sub-objective 2B: Establish fundamental understanding of BNF in the context of plant genotype by environment interactions in the commodity crop cowpea, Vigna unguiculata, and Soybean, Glycine max. Sub-objective 2C: Develop a standardized protocol for portable and low entry cost DNA sequencing platforms to evaluate critical sources of variability and error in analyses of biological transformations of soil carbon(C) and N. Objective 3: Assess thermal and anaerobic treatment processes of manure and in water resource recovery and treatment to reduce antibiotics in wastewater streams and develop effective approaches for treatment and monitoring materials of concern. Sub-objective 3A: Measure antibiotic removal during anaerobic processing of dairy manure and biosolids with small and large-scale processing methods. Sub-objective 3B: Develop protocols for anti-microbial gene detection in agricultural systems consistent with current recommendations from the EPA and One Health Initiative. Objective 4: Improve the ability to track the loading of nitrate from agricultural sources by using time dated metabolites of metolachlor to address N management strategies and to improve environmental and water quality. Sub-objective 4A: Redesign sampling and analysis protocols for metolachlor ethane sulfonic acid (MESA) to include metolachlor oxanilic acid (MOXA) for collection and analysis of stream water as a tool to track nitrate sources from groundwater. Sub-objective 4B: Determine isomer composition of both MESA and MOXA in watershed networks in order to describe groundwater nitrate loading from agriculture sources.

A molecular ecological approach will be taken to bridge gaps in understanding of biogeochemical stocks and flows in agroecosystems. Using classic chemistry, metabolomics, molecular biology, and plant physiology for analysis of samples from different cropping systems at the Farming Systems Project site critical issues in soil carbon sequestration and soil enzyme activity, and plant-microbiome interactions in relation to nitrogen fixation in legumes will be addressed. The Farming System Project in Beltsville, MD is part of the LTAR network and is a platform for comparison of long-term impacts of five cropping systems (conventional chisel till, conventional no-till, and three organic crop production rotations) commonly used in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US and elsewhere. New techniques will be developed to investigate how to improve manure anaerobic digestion systems for increased degradation of antibiotics and other compounds of concern in animal production waste streams to minimize the effect of their release into the environment. This research will also leverage the development of novel, passive sampling devices that detect breakdown products of the pesticide metolachlor as a surrogate for nitrate release from crop production fields. This improved technique will allow quantification of conservation practices directed towards reduction of agricultural waste in the nation’s water resources. In considering the connectivity and entirety and outcomes of the efforts of this project, this project will develop best management practices that improve water resources and soil quality in the Mid-Atlantic region helping to improve the sustainability of small, mid-sized, and large farms.