CEFS Long-term Systems Research: Providing the Building Blocks for Resilient Food Production Systems Phase III

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $100,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2022
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. 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
  • 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

    Proposal abstract:

    This is Phase III, Year 7, of the Large Systems Grant Project and a continuation of LS15-267 and LS12-247.

    The Long-Term Farming System Research trial (FSRU) at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) was initiated in 1999 and comprises more than 200 acres with 5 different systems replicated 3 times. The objectives for initiating this trial 16 years ago were to research: 1) how the various systems impact long-term sustainability of soil and water resources, 2) whether some systems are more resilient to perturbations in weather, input and market prices, and 3) how the systems impact biodiversity, wildlife, pest dynamics and the ecological services of farmland. Our study is designed to provide a better understanding of how different systems interact with and impact the natural resource base and economic viability of farms, as well as identify alternative approaches with potential for synergistic effects, such as diversification, access to direct markets, and environmental conservation.

    Over time the FSRU systems experiment has become irreplaceably unique for several reasons. First is the comprehensive nature of the systems being studied and their relevancy in the South. Second, the scale (200 acres) and large plot size gives us the ability to study important production system dynamics (e.g., insect and disease management) that others cannot, making our results more relevant to producers. We are also a model of inter-institutional collaboration with involvement of various departments and colleges at each 1890 and 1862 Land Grant university, the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and NGOs as diverse as Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and the NC Farm Bureau. Our systems experiment has also integrated outreach at every level with farmer involvement in both research and educational programming.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    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.

    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.