- Animal Production: feed/forage, pasture fertility
- Crop Production: nutrient management
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
Researchers and producers are challenged with developing agricultural systems that use limited resources effectively while improving productivity in the face of land degradation and increased climate variability. This is especially critical in semi-arid systems that are vulnerable to soil erosion, nutrient depletion, and extreme water scarcity. A sustainable and economically feasible management option is converting high-input row crop systems to grazed perennial grasslands, which are managed to provide high-quality forage for animal performance while improving soil health and conserving water and nutrient resources through minimized disturbance and continuous soil cover. Enteric methane (CH4) production from cattle is a potential sustainability tradeoff in these systems, but it is likely possible to offset this impact through integrated soil-plant-animal management. Preliminary data for our study indicate that adding legumes can increase soil microbial uptake of CH4 and improve forage quality for livestock in semi-arid pastures, which improves resource efficiency, sustainability, and productivity. Our proposed two-year study will leverage long-term forage manipulations in grazed semi-arid pastures to determine how management regulates soil greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes. Within this established system, we will investigate how nutrient and forage management increases soil CH4 uptake while improving soil health in semi-arid pastures. The results of our study will ultimately help us create more efficient and resilient semi-arid agricultural systems across the globe.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Discover how different sources of soil nitrogen regulate the presence and activity of CH4 cycling soil microbes and GHG soil fluxes.
- Quantify how legume density influences GHG flux in established long-term pastures.