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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Sustainable Dryland Cropping System for the Central Great Plains

Location: Central Plains Resources Management Research

Project Number: 5407-12210-001-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Jun 01, 2011
End Date: Mar 31, 2015

Objective:
1. Develop adaptive management practices and document their benefits to optimize yield and enhance ecosystem services for CGPR dryland agricultural systems most vulnerable to adverse changes in climate. 2. Extend the applicability of adaptive management practices across the CGPR using the development and evaluation of site-specific technologies and process modeling for field scales. 3. Develop and evaluate practices for remediation/restoration of degraded soils in the CGPR.

Approach:
There are 27 million acres of cultivated dryland in the Central Great Plains region (CGPR). The primary limitation for cropping in the CGPR is a variable drought dominated climate. Despite system improvements toward more intensive cropping, 58% of the region’s dryland is still winter wheat-summer fallow (WF). Unfortunately, WF is not economically /environmentally sustainable. Our objective is to develop sustainable dryland systems for the CGPR. A central research theme is adapting the region’s cropping systems to the ever-changing semi-arid climate. The unit works to achieve that objective using a long-term “core experiment,” the Alternative Crop Rotation (ACR) study. This field study compares 23 rotations for their economic, agronomic, and drought-mitigating effects and their effects on soil quality. In support of the core experiment, several satellite experiments evaluate the agronomic and economic potential of alternative crop species; quantify crop water use; evaluate changes in soil quality; develop management for remediating degraded soils; and evaluate nutrient use efficiency in these systems. The combined efforts of the “core” and “satellite” experiments will result in sustainable, climate-adaptive cropping systems for the region and will provide a quantitative knowledge of production limitations of the CGPR to climate change. Introducing biological and market diversity with broadleaf bio-diesel/oilseeds will reduce pest pressures inherent to the current grass-dominated rotations. Economic savings from improved cropping systems, reductions in agri-chemical use, and reductions in soil loss resulting from this research are estimated at $6-$35 per acre annually. Assuming 25% adoption of this technology will result in annual regional savings of $40 -$236 million.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014
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