CEFS Long-Term Systems Research: Providing the Building Blocks for Resilient Food Production Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2015: $300,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2019
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. S. Chris Reberg-Horton
North Carolina State University


  • Agronomic: clovers, corn, grass (misc. perennial), hay, rye, soybeans, sunflower, vetches
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy, meat


  • Animal Production: grazing management, grazing - rotational, rangeland/pasture management
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, conservation tillage, continuous cropping, cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, forest/woodlot management, no-till, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: land access
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, mulches - killed
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life


    The backbone of the FSRU will continue on: replicated plots of farming systems managed with farm-scale equipment.  Within that context, new research questions have emerged.  This research involves measuring outcomes never before measured or nesting new subplots within the experimental framework.  From the social sciences, we can ask how these systems interact with sustainability in the real world.  How do farmers weigh the choices in selecting farming practices from these various systems?  What factors play roles in farming practices that cannot be captured in an experimental protocol?  In this proposal, we have attracted researchers new to CEFS who have fresh ideas on relating this experiment to the sustainability issues of our time.  Most of these questions were never envisioned when the experiment was first designed.  From research on which farming systems emit the most greenhouse gases, to work on how land tenure affects the ability of farmers to adopt sustainable practices, the new research projects run the gamut of disciplines.

    Project objectives:

    How systems impact long-term sustainability of soil and water resources,

    system differences in resilience to perturbations in weather, inputs and market prices, and

    how systems impact biodiversity, pest dynamics and ecological services of agriculture.

    Long-term approaches that integrate the broad range of factors involved in agricultural systems are the focus of the Farming Systems Research Unit (FSRU).  The goal is to provide the empirical framework to address landscape-scale issues that impact long-run sustainability of North Carolina’s agriculture.  To this end, data collection and analyses include soil parameters (biological, chemical, and physical), pests and predators (weeds, insects, and disease), crop factors (growth, yield, and quality), economic factors, and energy issues.  Specific objectives for Phase II included:

    1. measuring greenhouse gas emissions from conventional and organic management systems using static chamber and continuous monitoring
    2. evaluating the social issues facing agricultural producers and landowners in adopting conservation agricultural systems on leased land
    3. testing novel weed seed destruction methods in conventional and organic systems
    4. investigating the impact of pasture termination method on soil organic carbon and nitrogen fractions with depth during subsequent cropping.
    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.