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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Adaptive Cropping Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #441506

Research Project: Developing Practices for Nutrient and Byproducts to Mitigate Climate Change, Improve Nutrient Utilization, and Reduce Effects on Environment (BRIDGE PROJECT)

Location: Adaptive Cropping Systems Laboratory

2023 Annual Report

Objective 1: Develop strategies using cover cropping and biosolids management to mitigate green-house gas (GHG) emissions and improve soil health. 1.A) Evaluate soil carbon (C) sequestration with cover crops to mitigate GHG emissions. 1.B) Evaluate the ability of biosolids management strategies to sequester C and thereby reduce GHG emissions. Objective 2: Develop strategies for managing fertilizer-N in cropping systems and manure NH3-N in high-residue tillage systems, to improve N-use efficiency and air quality. 2.A) Conduct field crop research with a corn-wheat-soybean rotation to evaluate 15N uptake efficiencies of genetically modified corn, conservation of N by cover crops, and soybean N2 fixation. 2.B) Evaluate and develop best management practices for reducing ammonia volatilization and to estimate ammonia losses from manures. Objective 3: Improve descriptions of biological mechanisms controlling bioactive P release to soils, and develop improved fate models and conservation practices to enhance P use efficiency. 3.A) Evaluate nutrient conservation practices based on enhanced understanding of rhizosphere microbiology and enzymology that regulate the release of bioactive manure-P and soil-P to crops and soil. 3.B) Evaluate relevance of current algorithms in use to include rhizosphere microbiology and enzymology processes when modeling P behavior and transport in APEX and similar models. Objective 4: Develop beneficial uses of agricultural, industrial, and municipal byproducts to enhance crop production and reduce risks to the environment from potential contaminants. 4.A) Conduct phytostabilization research using mixtures of organic resources with byproducts and alkaline amendments to achieve functional remediation and revegetation of barren and biologically dead metal contaminated soils. 4.B) Conduct phytoextraction/phytomining research to identify effective plant species and optimize the agronomic productivity of phytoextraction technologies. 4.C) Conduct research and risk evaluation to assess the risks and benefits from use of industrial, municipal and agricultural byproducts to improve crop production and reduce risk to the environment from byproduct constituents. 4.D) Investigate the use of mixtures of organic amendments, limestone byproducts, flue gas desulfurization gypsum and leachable alkalinity to correct subsoil acidity and improve soil fertility.

Obj. 1A. A replicated six-year field experiment will be completed to evaluate the rate and quantity of carbon sequestrated by winter cover-crops of rye, hairy vetch, and a rye plus hairy vetch mixture, as compared to a traditional no-cover condition. These data will assess and develop agricultural practices for mitigating global warming. Obj. 1B. Agricultural use of biosolids could improve soil carbon sequestration and thereby reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Replicated field research will be conducted on plots previously treated with different rates and types of biosolids, to determine if biosolids can increase soil carbon sequestration. Obj. 2A. Labeled nitrogen fertilizer will be used in a corn-wheat-soybean rotation to evaluate nitrogen use efficiencies of genetically modified and non-modified corn, to measure conservation of corn residual fertilizer by winter-wheat, and to estimate nitrogen fixation of double-crop soybeans. Improving nitrogen use efficiency will reduce nitrogen losses to the environment while maintaining profitability. Obj. 2B. Ammonia volatilization is a major loss of plant-available nitrogen from surface applied manures. A series of wind tunnel field studies will be conducted to evaluate the ability of new high-residue tillage implements to conserve ammonia, but still maintain surface residues to control erosion. Obj. 3A. Laboratory incubation-fractionation studies will be conducted to mathematically describe phosphorus transformations and availability in manured soils. These results will assess the advantages and disadvantages of adding organicphosphorus turnover to existing models. Obj. 3B. A critical evaluation of phosphorus transformation and transport modules within existing phosphorus models will be conducted by validation against long-term field and simulated rainfall studies. The evaluation will focus on the use of rhizosphere microbiology and enzymology for modeling phosphorus. Obj. 4A. Two field locations will be studied using various mixtures of industrial, municipal, and agricultural byproducts to remediate and revegetate barren and heavymetal contaminated soils. The studies will monitor plant yield and composition to assess byproduct performance and possible risks to wildlife. Obj. 4B. Growth chamber and greenhouse research on phyto-mining will use various fertilizer nutrients and topsoil/subsoil combinations to identify plant species and management practices that optimize agronomic productivity and that extract nickel from nickel-rich soils. Obj. 4C. A two-year field study will be conducted in Appalachia comparing the uptake of nutrients and metals by peanut and wheat from additions of poultry litter, flue gas desulfurization gypsum, and mined gypsum. A risk assessment on the use of flue gas desulfurization gypsum and mined gypsum in U.S. soils will also be done. Obj. 4D. A greenhouse study will be conducted to evaluate mixtures of organic amendments, limestone byproducts, flue gas desulfurization gypsum, and leachable alkalinity to correct subsoil acidity for alfalfa. Subsoil acidity commonly limits rooting depth in soils across the mid-Atlantic and Southern regions of the U.S..

Progress Report
This research is part of a bridge year of the project (8042-12000-043-000D) “Developing Practices for Nutrient and Byproducts to Mitigate Climate Change, Improve Nutrient Utilization, and Reduce Effects on Environment (BRIDGE PROJECT)“. This project is encompassed with National Programs 212, Soil and Air and 108, Food Safety, (Animal and Plant Products). New objectives will be written in 2024 when the new project plan is due. One of the new objectives will be to improve and apply crop simulation models to assess long term sustainability in long-term agricultural research (LTAR) systems. The RYESIM model was developed to simulate growth and development of winter rye cover crop. RYESIM was linked with a two-dimensional soil simulation model and includes modules for coupled photosynthesis and stomatal conductance gas exchange, shoot development and growth, and root growth. RYSESIM also accounts for rye surface residue presence and decomposition after termination date. Methods for soil-residue-atmosphere physics and decomposition and nitrogen mineralization were incorporated. Comparisons with field data show reliable model performance. This new ACSL crop model allows simulating cover crop dynamics as part of cropping rotation studies. A new manuscript was submitted which supports Objective 1A. Native vegetation is often used as a soil cover and for specific reasons like the removal of pesticides or agrochemicals, and other chemical-related exposures. This research looked at the capability of native vegetation of different species as a viable tool for the removal of excess nutrients and heavy metals from poultry litter applied on agricultural lands. Results indicated native vegetation could take up significant amounts of excess nutrients from soils, proportional to their biomass accumulation. Native vegetation was therefore found to be a nutrient sink, capable of removing excess nutrients/metals from the soil. A paper was published from this work which supports Objective 4B. A manuscript is being developed by investigating the effect of long-term crop rotation (continuous corn or soybean vs. corn-soybean rotation) and tillage practices on soil health using laboratory (ACSL, Beltsville, Maryland) corn and soybean models. It will be submitted this fiscal year. This research addresses Objective 2B. A collaboration with SASL (USDA-ARS, Beltsville, Maryland) continued to use MAIZSIM to evaluate effectiveness of crop management practices on corn resiliency using long-term data sets with the Farm Systems Project (FSP) database. A manuscript is being developed from this research which addresses Objectives 1A. A collaboration with the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory (SASL, USDA-ARS Beltsville, Maryland) was initiated as part of the NIFA-funded Diverse Rotations Improve Valuable Ecosystem Services (DRIVES) project. Based on multiple long-term cropping systems experiment data, the study proved that increased rotational complexity contributed to increasing crop yield under poor growing conditions. A manuscript will be submitted this fiscal year. This research addresses Objective 1A. Multiple crop simulation models were applied to long-term cropping systems experiment data under the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) Network sites to quantify the effects of long-term crop rotation, tillage, and cover crops. The compiled data were collected from Nebraska, Maryland, and Michigan covering diverse climatic regions. Analyses are ongoing. This research addresses Objective 2B. A paper was published proposing an enhanced method to detect onset of the rainy season for optimal sorghum planting in Senegal. This study adopted crop simulation models to identify semi-optimal planting dates that minimize weather-related risks for rain-fed farmers. This research addresses Objective 2B. A paper was published that proved the benefits of agronomic monsoon onset as planting dates for reducing the incidence of thermal stresses in the rice-wheat rotation system in northern India. Using crop simulation models, this study proved that rice planting based on agronomic monsoon onset would improve rice and wheat yields and yield stability by reducing the exposure of both rice to low temperatures and wheat to terminal heat stress. This research addresses Objective 2B.

1. Calculation of soil water content from Time Domain Reflectometry probes is improved using AI. Time domain reflectometry (TDR) is widely used in measuring soil water content. The ability to measure water content variations along the rods of the sensor would make TDR a valuable tool to easily measure variation of soil water content with depth. In this study, we developed a deep learning (AI) model that can reveal the variations of soil water content (soil relative permittivity) along the sensor rods. We evaluated the model performance using simulated TDR data. The accuracy compared to observed variations in water content along the rods was very good. The model reported in this study is important for soil scientists and agricultural engineers.

2. Natural vegetation removes nitrogen and heavy metals from soils when poultry litter is applied as fertilizer. Poultry litter added to the soil as fertilizer can greatly increase levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and heavy metals with the potential to leach to groundwater. For two years, we cultivated natural and native vegetation in plots fertilized with and without poultry manure. The goal was to determine if native vegetation could remove excess nutrients and metals in the soil and prevent them from going to the groundwater. Although plots that received poultry litter had higher vegetative biomass and contents of N and heavy metals than the plots without poultry litter, some excess N leached out of the root zone. The research showed that native vegetation could be used in agricultural fields to help remove excess nitrates, nutrients, and heavy metals after long-term poultry litter and fertilizer applications under moderate applications of poultry litter.

Review Publications
Han, E., Faye, A., Diop, M., Singh, B., Ganyo, K., Baethgen, W. 2022. Evaluating agronomic onset definitions in Senegal through crop simulation modeling. Atmosphere. 13(12):2122.
Montes, C., Urfels, A., Han, E., Singh, B. 2022. Planting aman rice at monsoon onset could mitigate the impact of temperature stress on rice-wheat systems of Bihar, India. Atmosphere. 14(1):40.
Jaja, N., Codling, E.R., Timlin, D.J., Rutto, L., Reddy, V. 2023. Phytoremediation efficacy of native vegetation for excess nitrates, phosphorus and heavy metals on agricultural lands amended with poultry litter and fertilizer. International Journal of Phytoremediation. 1-12.
Wang, Z., Hua, S., Timlin, D.J., Kojima, Y., Lu, S., Sun, W., Fleisher, D.H., Horton, R., Reddy, V., Tully, K. 2023. Time domain reflectometry waveform interpretation with convolutional neural networks. Water Resources Research. 59(2). Article e2022WR033895.