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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #445375

Research Project: Transdisciplinary Research that Improves the Productivity and Sustainability of Northern Great Plains Agroecosystems and the Well-Being of the Communities They Serve

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Project Number: 3064-21600-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 1, 2023
End Date: Sep 30, 2028

Objective 1: Develop sustainable agricultural systems (crop, livestock, and integrated) for northern climates that increase resilience and ecosystem services to farmers and society. Sub-objective 1.A: Develop production systems that improve the sustainability of cropland agriculture in the northern Plains. Sub-objective 1.B: Develop strategies to promote ecosystem services in integrated annual-perennial cropping systems of the northern climates, including perennial forage strips and phases. Sub-objective 1.C: Improve the economic and ecological resilience of northern Great Plains grasslands that have been invaded by Kentucky bluegrass by increasing plant diversity and altering the forage cycle using innovative land management and post-fire technologies. Sub-objective 1D: Characterize patterns of soil redox in managed soils of the Northern Great Plains and increase understanding of how inputs of plant secondary metabolites (PSMs), such as small phenolic compounds, may contribute to CO2 efflux from soils. Objective 2: Determine agricultural management strategies that impact soil and plant function and the nutritional and sensory qualities of food crops, forages, and livestock products while enhancing ecosystem services. Sub-objective 2.A: Evaluate how conservation management practices compared to business-as-usual management practices impact nutritional and sensory qualities of food and forage crops. Sub-objective 2.B: Evaluate the chemical composition of beef and goat meat grown under different management systems. Sub-objective 2.C: Evaluate integrated crop-livestock, feedlot, and grazing systems for trace element and macro-nutrient cycling (N, P) with select tools and applicable models, including whole farm nutrient balancing, nutrient use efficiency, and plant secondary compounds. Objective 3: Assess the human dimensions from producers to consumers and develop insights for spurring innovation and increasing development and adoption of sustainable agricultural and food systems in northern climates. Sub-objective 3.A: Theoretical development of the concept of food security agency Sub-objective 3.B: Assess economic and social benefits and barriers to adoption of more sustainable agricultural systems. Objective 4: Explore the development of equitable solutions for innovative knowledge-intensive agricultural systems (including organic systems, agrivoltaics, and agroforestry). Sub-objective 4.A: Integrate solar photovoltaics with dryland livestock forage systems to provide an alternative energy system while increasing forage production. Sub-objective 4.B: To increase accessibility of culturally significant plants for tribal communities.

The work of NGPRL scientists integrates theories and methods from multiple disciplines and allows for unique transdisciplinary research on crop, grassland, and livestock systems while considering the ecological and human dimensions of these systems. This project builds upon long-term research on bioenergy cropping systems and integrated crop-livestock systems at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) and leverages the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network common experiment strategy of comparing business-as-usual and aspirational treatments. Objective 1 will seek to scientifically evaluate how agricultural management practices contribute to the understanding of increased resilience to climate change, species invasions, and perturbations, and expand ecosystem services to farmers and society – each of which is also formally communicated in the strategic plan priorities of the USDA LTAR network. The project’s overall goal is to design diverse agricultural livestock and cropping systems, utilizing cover crops, which promote soil health and increase the nutritional quality of crops, forages, and livestock products utilized by animals including humans. Thereby, addressing the mission of the Congressionally mandated “healthy soils, healthy food, healthy people initiative, as communicated in this project’s Objective 2. The NGPRL is also uniquely positioned to develop human dimensions research that can spur agricultural innovation and increase the development and adoption of sustainable agricultural and food systems, addressed in Objectives 3 and 4, by integrating sustainable energy development with agriculture, through the efforts of the NGPRL team and collaborations with the leadership of the LTAR human dimensions working group, and through congressionally mandated collaborations with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.