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

2002 Annual Report for LS01-120

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

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


An interdisciplinary, systems- research project compared diverse agriculture/ecosystems: a best management practice (BMP) system; an integrated crop/animal system; an organic production system; a forestry/woodlot system; and a successional ecosystem.

Soil nematode population density maxima for most trophic groups was in July.
Three species of beneficial insect-parasitic nematodes, Steinernema carpocapsa, S. glaseri and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, and two insect-pathogenic fungi, Beauveria and Metarhizium, were isolated from the site.
Cumulative abundance of soil microarthropods was greater in the organic, successional and BMP no-till treatments than in the Woodlot, BMP conventional till and pasture plots.
No differences were found between systems for field capacity, hydraulic conductivity, plant available water retention and soil microporosity. Bulk density was lowest in the organic system and highest in the crop/animal system.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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.

Expand the scope of the experiment beyond the initiation phase by nesting of other experiments within.

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


Plots in the Long-term Farming Systems Trial at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems containing three replications and five sampling points within each replication, were sampled in May, July, and September of 2001 and 2002, to determine the effects of various production systems on selected soil abiotic and biotic characteristics.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Time of sampling may affect conclusions as to which soil characteristics are most dominant and or important in measuring soil quality. These results will be used to determine indicators of ecosystem health. Over the last three years differences among the various systems are beginning to be expressed.

Future research may be able to focus on identification of taxa to determine indicator species. Multivariate analysis of the soil biotic and abiotic data will help determine linkages among soil biotic and abiotic characteristics.

Several presentations have been made at scientific meetings and extension/outreach events to disseminate the results of this work. The systems experiment was featured as part of the national SARE meeting On the Road to Sustainable Agriculture in October of 2002. A national audience of over 500 producers and AG professionals attended the event


Frank Louws

Associate Professor Plant Pathology
box 7616
Raleigh, nc 27695
Office Phone: 9195156698
Charles Raczkowski

Assistant Professor of Soil Science
Greensboro, nc 27411
Office Phone: 3363347779
Nancy Creamer

Associate Professor
box 7609
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9195159447
Mary Barbercheck

Associate Professor of Entomolgy
North Carolina State University
Unit 1 840 Method Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9195151651
Michael Linker

Professor of Crop Science
box 7620
Raleigh, nc 27695
Office Phone: 9195155644