Drowning in data and starving for knowledge, agricultural decision makers require evidence-based information to enlighten sustainable intensification.
The agroecological footprint of the Cook Agronomy Farm (CAF) LTAR is embedded within 9.4 million ha of multiple land uses primarily cropland (2.9 million ha) and rangeland (5.3 million ha) that span a wide annual precipitation gradient (150 mm through 1400 mm) with diverse social and natural capital.
Agricultural challenges include:
- soil erosion
- declining soil organic matter
- soil acidification
- herbicide resistance
- lack of cropping system diversity
- increased negative impacts of extreme weather events
- overall lack of adaptive capacity.
Sustainable intensification hinges on the development and adoption of site- and time-specific agroecological practices that rely on meaningful spatio-temporal data relevant to land use decisions at within-field to regional scales. Specifically, the CAF LTAR will provide the scientific foundation (socio-economical and bio-physical) for enhancing decision support for precision and conservation agriculture and synergistic cropping system intensification and diversification.
Long- and short-term perspectives that recognize and assess trade-offs inherent in any land use decision will be considered so as to promote the development of more sustainable agricultural systems. Research consists of paired BAU and ASP catchments where comparisons quantified include:
- productivity (grain yield)
- crop quality
- N use efficiency
- GHG flux
- water quantity and quality (e.g. N, P, sediment)
- soil health (e.g. acidification, C storage, PLFA, soil microbiome, ion exchange membranes, many other, 0-1.5 m deep)
Measurements combine geo-referenced locations (over 600 points) coupled with those at Eddy-covariance towers, flumes and subsurface drain tiles. Satellite on-farm studies consist of diversified crop, organic and integrated systems that complement CAF research.