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ARS Home » Plains Area » Brookings, South Dakota » Integrated Cropping Systems Research » Research » Research Project #441173

Research Project: Combined Management Tactics for Resilient and Sustainable Crop Production

Location: Integrated Cropping Systems Research

Project Number: 3080-12620-006-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 9, 2021
End Date: Aug 8, 2026

Objective 1: Evaluate the interaction of crop diversification practices (crop rotation, cover cropping) in no-till production systems with crop performance and soil properties, focusing particularly on identifying key management factors (e.g., crop identity and sequencing) that drive differential soil biological responses associated with crop performance and resilience. Sub-objective 1.A: Evaluate temporal considerations for sampling dynamic soil biological properties and associating these soil biological properties with key management factors including crop rotation, crop sequencing, crop identity. Sub-objective 1.B: Identify key crop management factors driving differences in rhizosphere microbiomes that correlate with crop performance in a no-till production system with long-term rotational treatments (established in 2000). Evaluate differential bacterial and fungal taxa for their applicability as soil health indicators in other systems within different soil-climatic regions via collaborative research. Sub-objective 1.C: Using long-term, no-till diverse crop rotations as a base crop production system, determine the influence of adding cover crop treatments on cash crop performance and soil physical, chemical and biological properties as these effects manifest with duration of treatments (cover crop treatments added in 2016). Objective 2: Integrate research data acquired on crop rotation and cover cropping within no-till production systems to advance awareness of sustainable crop production systems that are applicable regionally through a better understanding of the direct and indirect impact of these management practices on soil, water, and air resources. Sub-objective 2.A: Investigate rotational diversification (including oat) effects on crop growth and yield, soil properties, and economics to better understand the temporal influences of these outcomes and the mechanisms by which they contribute to productivity and resilience (Cote and Darling, 2010) of the whole cropping system to comprehensively demonstrate the feasibility of these practices to potential adopting producers. Subobjective 2.B: Investigate biotic and abiotic agronomic, edaphic, and climatic factors that influence the production and grain quality of oat in cropping systems.

A large proportion of commodity crop production in the Midwest has shifted to monocultures and simplified crop rotations over the past decades, resulting in unsustainable degradation of soil, air, and water resources. Furthermore, crop production is increasingly being destabilized by more frequent occurrences of extreme weather events associated with climate change. Emerging evidence indicates management practices, such as crop diversity and cover cropping, increase soil health and provide resilience to crops from stresses including drought, flooding, pests, pathogens, and weeds. Resilient crop production systems are an essential tactic to stabilize food supplies for a growing population and reduce financial liabilities in the face of variable climates. However, the specific biological characteristics of resilient soils remain unknown and the essential drivers of beneficial soil microbiomes are ill-defined. This project will examine and quantify impacts of diversified crop production systems (crop rotation, cover cropping) on crop production, soil properties, and microbial communities under the regional conditions of our research site. These crop diversification tactics are overlaid on a no-till cropping system with reduced inorganic nutrient inputs and crop residue retention; this system has been in place for 20 years. We will test, develop, and demonstrate crop management practices that provide benefits in terms of crop productivity, soil health, water use and quality, and air quality when adopted at scale. Concurrent with delineating the outcomes for crop productivity and soils, this project will elucidate prospective soil biological mechanisms underlying crop rotation effects. Demonstration of the outcomes of crop rotational diversity and understanding the drivers for these outcomes together serve as the foundation for increased adoption of these practices. This research will be applicable under similar soil-climatic regions across the globe to serve agricultural stakeholders (producers, crop consultants, agribusinesses, extension personnel, etc.), policy makers, and the general public.