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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Research Project #441477

Research Project: Linkages Between Crop Production Management and Sustainability in the Central Mississippi River Basin

Location: Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research

Project Number: 5070-12000-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 3, 2022
End Date: Jan 2, 2027

Objective 1: Determine linkages between plant available water, evapotranspiration, and crop yields. 1a: Determine the relationship between crop yields and available soil water. 1b: Develop spatially explicit field-scale water budgets using remote sensing. 1c: Determine the ability of the APEX model to simulate the spatial variability of crop yields and soil moisture. Objective 2: Characterize and quantify the sub-daily variability in water quality and identify the drivers of that change. 2a: Identify and quantify stream sub-daily water quality variability. 2b: Identify the drivers for phosphorus sub-daily variability. Objective 3: Determine and characterize the effects of management on water use efficiency, nutrient use efficiency, GHG emissions, productivity, and ecology. 3a: Compare WUE and water budget components of different crops and cropping systems. 3b: Integrate corn incremental N use efficiency (NUE) into fertilizer recommendations. 3c: Determine the effects of conservation practices and crop rotations on greenhouse gas and productivity, and the potential trade-offs. 3d: Determine how conservation practices and crop rotations affect above ground biomass and ecology. Objective 4: Evaluate ASP (aspirational) and BAU (business-as-usual) production systems for water quantity, water quality, soil, biological, production and profitability outcomes. 4a: Investigate trade-offs between productivity and environmental metrics for more diverse cropping systems. 4b: Create publicly accessible data holdings for publishing CMRB production and environmental data. 4c: Extrapolate the BAU and ASP water budgets developed at field scale to larger scales.

The overall purpose of the project is to identify how conservation practices affect outcomes, what cropping systems improve short- and long-term sustainability, and the trade-offs between environmental and production outcomes; and provide that information to producers to help them move toward more sustainable agricultural systems. Objective 1 focuses on the relationship between crop yields, soil moisture content, and evapotranspiration within the context of these soils. Objective 3 compares multiple outcomes of different agricultural systems. The conclusions of these two objectives will help identify important processes that improve agricultural sustainability, provide the information necessary to develop metrics that describe this sustainability, and evaluate trade-offs between environmental and production outcomes of agricultural systems. Objective 4 connects to these two objectives by bringing the information to stakeholders. It will also scale results related to water availability and movement to a larger scale. The research in Objective 2 is needed to incorporate issues of phosphorus transport when scaling phosphorus losses from the edge-of-field to the watershed scale and evaluate environmental impacts. The project will conduct experiments at multiple scales ranging from small plots to watersheds, adding measurements and continuing those already underway. The project builds upon the research infrastructure developed in collaboration with the University of Missouri at our research farm in Centralia and elsewhere, which was enhanced for the Central Mississippi River Basin (CMRB) site of the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Network (LTAR) starting in 2015. This infrastructure includes small plots, large plots, and fields on which the Common Experiment—a coordinated experiment across LTAR—has been implemented, and the observatory, which provides long-term data of weather and stream flow quantity and quality in multiple nested watersheds. The proposed research focuses on surface and soil water in row crop production systems in the CMRB, with simultaneous consideration of productivity, nitrogen use, greenhouse gas emissions, soil health, and biodiversity. Specifically, research will address the immediate and long-term relationships between row-crop production practices and water budgets, surface water quality, hazardous algae blooms, GHG emissions, ecology, and aboveground and soil biodiversity. The project will result in information that producers and policy makers can use to incite changes in cropping systems.