Long-Term, Large-Scale Systems Research Directed Toward Agricultural Sustainability

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $230,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. J. Paul Mueller
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, cotton, peanuts, rye, soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, cabbages, tomatoes
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: afforestation, riparian buffers
  • Pest Management: biological control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulches - living
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships


    An 81 ha long-term, large-scale systems study was initiated in September of 1998 at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems located near Goldsboro, NC, USA. The experiment is currently in its 7th year. Data collected during the first 5-years of the trial indicate that the C inputs, the degree of soil disturbance and time of sampling have important effects on soil quality variables. Microbial biomass and retention of C and N in soils was highest in the least disturbed systems and systems with organic C inputs. Furthermore, nested short-term studies have contributed important information regarding transition strategies to organic production and weed biology and ecology. Another study found that natural and semi-natural habitats in the farm landscape are not necessarily associated with weed contamination of adjacent crop fields.

    Project objectives:

    1.) Evaluate the transitional changes that will begin manifestation during years 4-6 on the five, diverse systems: three agricultural, a successional and a plantation forestry system.

    2.) Expand the scope of the experiment beyond the initiation phase by nesting other experiments within the larger system.

    3.) Strengthen existing innovative educational programs by elaborating the intensive internships in sustainable agriculture for undergraduates, field days, tours, faculty visits and a web site.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.