Field with precision irrigation.

MN Impact: Improving Crop Production with SDZM-based Management Systems

August 28, 2018

Objective

Research on new cropping systems will help farmers adapt to changing conditions in the Upper Midwest.

Issue (Who cares and Why)

Increasing climatic variability is likely to increase financial and environmental risks for US farmers growing row-crops. More information is needed to assist farmers to choose management strategies that will help them adapt while maintaining crop yields.

What has been done

Nicholas Jordan and his team participated in a multi-year and multistate experiment on soil functional zone management (SFZM) in corn and soybean systems took place from 2011 to 2016 in MN, IL, PA, and MI. The experiment examined both ridge-till and chisel-plow tillage systems both with and without a rye cover crop and compared plant growth, yield, nutrient status, soil attributes and greenhouse gas emissions.

Results

The experiment showed SFZM with cover cropping improves soil fertility and carbon stocks, enhances early soil warming and drying for an extended growing season, and increases midsummer storage of "green water," while maintaining the high crop yields necessary for food security.

These results indicate that a cropping system redesign with SFZM-based management is a relatively inexpensive, scalable intervention that has potential to substantially improve production of food and other bioproducts, environmental health, and the agricultural economy associated with US row-crop farming.