Long-Term Agro-Ecosystem Research: Opportunities for Perennial Crops

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Nov 6, 2013 (3 years and 10 months ago)

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National Grape & Wine Initiative


NGWI & USDA/ARS Meeting

March 21, 2013

Beltsville, MD

Dr. Mark R. Walbridge

National Program Leader

Water Availability & Watershed Management

Agricultural Research Service

Long
-
Term Agro
-
Ecosystem Research: Opportunities
for Perennial Crops

Challenges Facing Agriculture in the 21
st

Century

By 2050, agriculture will need to:


Supply enough food, feed, fiber, & fuel to support a
global population of 9 billion people;



Without depleting our natural resources or
degrading our environment;



Against a background of changes in climate that
are expected to alter patterns of temperature and
precipitation on which the world’s food production
systems depend.

These challenges threaten our food security & the
availability of fresh water for a variety of needs.



25% of Earth’s lands are
already degraded.


More than ¾ of the 70%
increase in global food
production needed by 2050
will have to come from the
‘sustainable intensification’
of existing agricultural lands
(FAO 2011).

The top 100 questions of importance to
the future of global agriculture
(Pretty et al.
2010. Int. J. of Ag. Sustainability 8:219
-
236)

In light of:


Growing impacts of climate change.


Concerns over energy security.


Regional dietary shifts.


And the Millennium Development target of a 50%
reduction in world poverty and hunger by 2015:


“Rather than simply maximizing productivity, the goal
for the agricultural sector is to optimize productivity
across a far more complex landscape of production,
rural development, environmental, social justice and
food consumption outcomes.”

Meeting these challenges will require
transformative changes to agriculture

(NRC 2010)

Production systems and agricultural landscapes
that:




Represent a significant departure from the
dominant systems of present
-
day agriculture.


Capitalize on synergies, efficiencies, and
resilience characteristics associated with
complex natural systems and their linked
social, economic, and biophysical systems.


Integrate information about productivity,
environmental, economic, and social aspects
of farming systems to understand their
interactions.


Address issues of resilience and vulnerability
to changing climatic and economic conditions.

Frequent calls in the literature over the
past 10 years
(see review by Walbridge &
Shafer 2011)

Glasener (2010)


“It’s high time that the
successful LTER model be
expanded to the nation’s
agricultural lands (agro
-
ecosystems)”


Agricultural lands:


> 900 million acres (41%) of the
land area of the US;


Including > 400 million acres of
intensively managed croplands in
the Corn Belt, Great Plains, etc.

How Will a Long
-
Term

Agro
-
Ecosystem Research (LTAR)
Network Help Us Meet These Challenges?


By helping us understanding
how key agricultural
system components interact at larger scales
(e.g.,
watershed; landscape);


By helping us anticipate the
environmental effects
of shifting agricultural practices
;


By helping us improve the
effectiveness of
conservation programs
;


By helping us identify the broader
societal benefits
of modern agriculture

(e.g., bio
-
energy production;
carbon sequestration; improved water quality & water
-
use efficiency; wildlife habitat).

Given the current fiscal climate in the US,
Given the current fiscal climate in the US,
there’s little chance of establishing an LTAR
there’s little chance of establishing an LTAR
network through appropriations.
network through appropriations.




ARS is the Federal Government’s primary intramural
ARS is the Federal Government’s primary intramural
agricultural research organization, with sustained,
agricultural research organization, with sustained,
long
long
-
-
term appropriations.
term appropriations.




ARS already has significant relevant infrastructure in
ARS already has significant relevant infrastructure in
place (experimental watersheds and rangelands).
place (experimental watersheds and rangelands).




We felt that the best way to get such a network for the
We felt that the best way to get such a network for the
agricultural research community as a whole was to step
agricultural research community as a whole was to step
up and make a commitment to it.
up and make a commitment to it.


Vision and Goal for an LTAR Network


Vision

Trans
-
disciplinary science
conducted over decades on the
land in different regions,
geographically scalable, enhancing
the sustainability of agro
-
ecosystems goods and services.


Goal

To sustain a land
-
based
infrastructure for research,
environmental management
testing, and education that enables
understanding and forecasting of
the Nation’s capacity to provide
agricultural commodities and
other ecosystem goods and
services under changing
environmental and resource
-
use
conditions.


Objectives

1.
Describe the recently established USDA LTAR
network, giving background information on:

a.
The network as a whole;

b.
The first 10 individual LTAR sites;

2.
Discuss our future plans:

a.
The network’s draft Shared Research Strategy;

b.
Adding new sites;

c.
Potential future collaborations.

In Feb. 2012, USDA/ARS Announced the
Organization of 10 Existing Experimental
Watersheds, Ranges, & Research Farms Into an
LTAR Network


Based on 7 Criteria:

1.
Productivity



the team’s research track record;

2.
Infrastructure Capacity


presence of an instrumented watershed or other
long
-
term research facility large enough to capture landscape
-
scale processes;.

3.
Data Richness


the length, breadth, depth, and quality of the existing data
record;

4.
Data Availability/Accessibility
--

organization and accessibility of existing
data sets;

5.
Geographic Coverage


how potential sites were distributed in terms of
major agricultural production regions, watershed basins, and eco
-
climatic
zones;

6.
Existing Partnerships



with producers, other stakeholders, universities,
etc.;

7.
Institutional Commitment


to support continued site operation for the
next 30
-
50 years.


Additional

-

existing water/energy balance or carbon flux/sequestration research; part
of one or more existing networks.

21 ARS locations voluntarily submitted
information to address the criteria.


A panel of non
-
ARS experts with experience in
research with other networks and multi
-
institutional research evaluated each location’s
information against the criteria.


The panel had complete freedom in their
evaluation, how many they thought met the
criteria, and where they were located.

LTAR Network Expectations/Operating Principles


Develop research questions that are
shared and coordinated across sites.


Provide the capacity to address large
-
scale questions across sites through
shared research protocols.


Collect compatible datasets across
sites, and provide the capacity and
infrastructure for cross
-
site data
analysis.


Facilitate and foster shared
engagement in thinking and acting
like a network.


Encourage partnerships; seek
extramural funding

LTAR Network Overview


10 sites


Data Records: 12 (Pullman,
WA) to 100 years (Las Cruces,
NM and Mandan, ND)


Area Covered (km
2
): 0.57
(Pullman, WA) to 6,200
(Ames, IA)


NEON Domains: 8 out of 17
(in lower 48 states)


Major Drainage Basins: 8 out
of 18 (in lower 48 states)


Farm Resource Regions: 7
0ut of 9 (in lower 48 states)

Anderson
Creek

Spring
Creek

Mahantango

Creek

Conewago

Creek

Allegheny Plateau

Upper Chesapeake Bay LTAR

Physiographic Provinces


Susquehanna R. Basin

Gulf Atlantic Coastal Plain LTAR

Rolling Wiregrass
Ecoregion

Upper Mississippi River Basin LTAR
Upper Mississippi River Basin LTAR


USDA
USDA
-
-
ARS, at Ames IA; St Paul MN,
ARS, at Ames IA; St Paul MN,
Morris MN, and Marshfield WI, and
Morris MN, and Marshfield WI, and
Pioneer Farm at the
Pioneer Farm at the


University of Wisconsin Platteville
University of Wisconsin Platteville



Salt River
Basin

Goodwater Creek
Experimental Watershed

Long Branch Creek Watershed

Central Mississippi River Basin

LTAR (CMRB)



Represents low
-
permeability
soils, prone to surface runoff.


Originally prairie dissected by
wooded riparian river
corridors. Now the prairie is
intensely agricultural.


Primary crops are soybean,
corn, sorghum, and wheat.


Low permeability means
cropland is not drained.


Much of the stream network
has been channelized to
combat seasonal flooding.


Erosion, sedimentation, and
streambank

processes are
important.

Cook Agronomy Farm LTAR
-

Palouse Country

Northern Plains LTAR


Mandan, ND

100
th

Meridian

Mandan

Central Plains Experimental Range LTAR

CPER

Central Great Plains

(Rolling Wheat and Range)

Land Resource Area

MLRA 78C Central Rolling Red
Plains


MLRA 80A Central Rolling Red
Prairies of central Oklahoma





GRL, El Reno & Langston

Research Watersheds

Southern Plains LTAR, El Reno, OK



The
Jornada

Experimental Range LTAR





Located in northern
Chihuahuan

Desert


(largest desert in North America).



Low annual precipitation


(
avg

= 24 cm/y)



Mild winters and hot summers


(
-
5
o
C Jan to 35
o
C July)



High elevation desert (1200 m)


Walnut Gulch


Experimental Watershed LTAR

Kilometers


Grassland


Brush







0

2

4

6

8

10







Tombstone



Shared Research Strategy

LTAR Research Committee

Chair
: Mark Walbridge


Members
: Justin Derner, Kris Havstad, Phil Heilman, David
Huggins, Peter Kleinman, Tom Moorman, John Sadler, Matt
Sanderson, Jean Steiner, Timothy Strickland


SRS Writing Team
: Ray
Bryant, Kris Havstad, Peter Kleinman,
Tom Moorman, Susan Moran, Jean Steiner, Tim Strickland

The LTAR Network’s long
-
term
success will depend on…


Partners…and lots of them


Capacity building for NEON
-
inspired
instrumentation and measurements


Resources and policies for data management


Funding for research itself in the
network


Wide interest and use of the network


not
just natural resources


University involvement


in existing
locations, and for additional locations


A spirit of partnership across locations and
agencies

(see:
http://www.ars.usda.gov/ltar

for a complete list of current LTAR Network Partners)

The Future?


ARS’ Platform/Infrastructure to Support Its
Future Conservation Research


Linkages With CZO, LTER, and NEON?


Address Key Gaps by Adding:


Additional ARS sites that can increase capacity to meet
criteria;


Sites operated by other Federal agencies, colleges &
universities, or other organizations that meet criteria:


E.g., USDA Forest Service


2
nd

RFI Appeared in December 2012


Responses Due April 1, 2013


The LTAR Network Begins


Agriculture faces tremendous
challenges over the coming century.


Addressing these challenges will
require transformative changes to
agriculture.


Establishing a long
-
term agro
-
ecosystem research network is an
important component of
understanding how to make these
changes.


The Agricultural Research Service is
leveraging its infrastructure and
ongoing research as the foundation
for an LTAR network for agriculture.