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

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1998: $256,604.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $302,154.00
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. J. Paul Mueller
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, cotton, peanuts, soybeans, triticale, wheat
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes
  • Additional Plants: trees


  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, nutrient cycling
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil physics, soil quality/health


    An experiment involving five systems began in September of 1998 with cover crop rye planted over the entire 81 ha site. Systems include three agroecosystems (BMP standard, organic and integrated crop/animal), a successional ecosystem and a plantation forestry system. Preliminary results indicate some benefits to no/ reduced tillage.

    Project objectives:

    Our first objective at CEFS was to establish in perpetuity five very diverse ecological and agricultural systems. The next step was to initiate research projects that focused on the following: developing a set of soil quality indicators that can be used to assess management induced changes in agroecosystems, and to study energy and nutrient flows within the plant-soil systems, changes in short-and long-term carbon and nutrient inputs/exports, ecological/biological shifts and economic performance evaluations in these systems over the long-term.
    We believe that during the next three years the systems will begin to diverge based on management strategies. Data collected to quantify these changes include: a) soil physical properties (bulk density, aggregate stability, soil water characteristics, pore size distribution, hydraulic conductivity), b) soil quality indices (pH, infiltration, organic matter, inorganic and total N, C02 evolution and microbial biomass), c) soil fauna (bacteria, nematodes, other soil fauna) d) weed populations (distribution, shifts, species, soil seed banks), diseases (pests, beneficials, disease-suppressive soils), insects (beneficials and pests), plant growth development and yield.
    A continuing goal of the project is to seek useful methods that facilitate experimental design and analysis of large-scale agricultural and ecological field studies.

    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.