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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #380872

Research Project: Sustainable Agricultural Systems for the Northern Great Plains

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Title: What can we learn about agricultural practices from historical soil archives?

item Liebig, Mark
item Clemensen, Andrea
item Durso, Lisa
item Halvorson, Jonathan
item MARGENOT, ANDREW - University Of Illinois
item Stewart, Catherine
item Van Pelt, Robert - Scott

Submitted to: Electronic Publication
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/19/2021
Publication Date: 5/1/2021
Citation: Liebig, M.A., Clemensen, A.K., Durso, L.M., Halvorson, J.J., Margenot, A., Stewart, C.E., Van Pelt, R.S. 2021. What can we learn about agricultural practices from historical soil archives? Soils Matter, Get the Scoop! weblog. Available at

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Valuable contributions from long-term research are built on a foundation of relevant treatments, sound experimental designs, and standardized sampling, analysis, and data management protocols. These components are a foundation for long-term experiments that, when in place, allow researchers to draw out observations that will inform whether agricultural practices are sustainable. Making those observations, however, takes time. Tradeoffs and synergies among ecosystem services are rarely resolved in the short-term, sometimes taking decades before definitive answers are found. Overcoming the challenges of time, however, may be partially addressed in long-term experiments through the use soil archives. Soil archives provide ‘time capsules’ for determining temporal changes in soil attributes over decades or even centuries. Archived soil samples are also particularly valuable as new analytical capabilities and research questions are developed. This blog post highlights the pros and cons of using soil archives in research and showcases an ongoing study using the USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory soil archive to understand long-term soil change under dryland cropping systems in the Great Plains.