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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Research Project #445325

Research Project: Innovative Cropping System Solutions for Sustainable Production on Spatially Variable Landscapes

Location: Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research

Project Number: 5070-21600-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 20, 2023
End Date: Sep 19, 2028

Objective 1: Develop state-of-the-art, climate-adaptive cropping systems for improved ecosystem services and productivity in the Midwest. Sub-objective 1A: Evaluate reduced tillage, expanded crop rotations, cover crops, and perennialization for improved soil health and ecosystem services. Sub-objective 1B: Develop and evaluate cropping systems that include cover crops for improved nitrogen management and sustainability. Sub-objective 1C. Enhance growing season utilization through crop diversity and intensity for improved climate resilience. Objective 2: Develop precision agriculture techniques and advanced analytic tools for resilient and sustainable cropping systems. Sub-objective 2A: Develop and improve fertility management tools for enhanced cropping system sustainability and resilience. Sub-objective 2B: Develop and improve proximal soil sensing tools for rapid and inexpensive soil property estimation. Sub-objective 2C: Expand the SHAPE scoring curve framework for improved soil health interpretation.

In this project, our interdisciplinary team will address challenges faced by Midwestern U.S. farmers by developing and evaluating novel cropping systems and advanced analytic tools for enhanced decision support. In the first objective, state-of-the-art, climate-adaptive cropping systems will be developed and evaluated for sustainability, including yield, profitability, and multiple ecosystem services across a range of crops, soils, and climate conditions. Specifically, we will develop and evaluate aspirational grain cropping systems that incorporate multiple conservation practices including variable-rate nitrogen application, reduced tillage, expanded rotations, cover crops, and semi-perennial hay crops (1A). We will incorporate cover crops for improved nitrogen use efficiency in corn production systems (1B), and we will develop cropping systems that are resilient to changing climate conditions and take advantage of altered growing seasons for enhanced productivity (1C). In addition to our multiple, long-term experimental sites, management systems will be evaluated through collaborative, on-farm research with active participation by crop producers and crop advisors. In the second objective, tools to support management decisions to increase crop production, profitability, and soil health will be developed. These tools will improve precision agriculture techniques and advanced analytic tools for resilient and sustainable cropping systems. Specifically, we will improve Missouri grain crop nitrogen management and soil fertility recommendations by including cover crop and landscape information and we will improve sensor decision support for in-season variable-rate grain crop nitrogen management (2A). Further, sensor information will be used to improve estimates of soil properties and planting-time decision support (2B). Finally, a national scale soil health assessment tool will be improved to provide producers with a regionally relevant soil health interpretation (2C). The outcomes of this project will include innovative cropping systems designed for resilience to climate and landscape variability, and crop and soil sensor technology to determine best planting and fertilization practices for increased nitrogen use efficiency and profitability. Together, these results and products will provide producers and other stakeholders with the knowledge and tools to effectively implement and manage more sustainable cropping systems.