Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #396616

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

Location: Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research

Title: Corn belt nutrient-loss mitigation guided by multi-site research network testing environmental and production synergies and tradeoffs

item EAGLE, ALISON - Environmental Defense Fund
item MCCLELLAN MAAZ, TAI - University Of Hawaii
item Abendroth, Lori

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/28/2022
Publication Date: 11/6/2022
Citation: Eagle, A., Mcclellan Maaz, T., Abendroth, L.J. 2022. Corn belt nutrient-loss mitigation guided by multi-site research network testing environmental and production synergies and tradeoffs [abstract]. 2022 ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting, November 6-9, 2022. Baltimore, Maryland. Paper No. 145544. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Industry, university and government-agency promotion of effective agricultural nutrient management strategies requires a clear understanding of production and environmental tradeoffs and synergies. Nutrient losses cause serious environmental damage and yet added nutrients are necessary for agriculture to meet food, fiber and fuel demand. Investigators across agroecological zones in the North American Corn Belt collaborated on a 3-yr project with standardized research design, data collection and analysis to better understand nutrient losses in tile-drained cropping systems. The network enabled nimble synthesis and interpretation of the temporal and spatial nature of diverse nutrient losses in response to interventions. Our research network includes nine sites spanning from 39.4 to 44.2 °N and 82.7 to 95.5 °W, with farmer-normal practices compared to advanced 4R nutrient management and cover crop treatments. Data collected included farm management, precipitation, temperature, tile drain NO3 and P loss, N2O and NH3 fluxes, crop yields, and soil health attributes. The collaborative structure included development of a common data dictionary, protocol standardization, centralized quality control, and meta-analysis. Nutrient losses varied temporally and spatially in important ways that are not captured in annualized assessments, and nutrient loss patterns (e.g., ratios between different reactive N forms) shifted with climate and soil variables. Thus, interventions targeting specific loss pathways (e.g., leaching, denitrification) can best be locally adapted for both environmental and production benefits. Other practices that capture or tie up “loose” nutrients (e.g., cover crops) may be more universal. Improved 4R management reduced losses, the most benefits arising when excess nutrient balances were also lowered.