Sustainable corn

A partnership among KSK Global and Iowa State University; Lincoln University; Michigan State University; The Ohio State University; Purdue University; South Dakota State University; University of Illinois; University of Minnesota; University of Missouri; University of Wisconsin; USDA Agricultural Research Service – Columbus, Ohio; and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA).

This five-year project assesses the environmental, economic and social impacts of long-term climate variability on corn-based cropping systems. The project focuses on ways to encourage resilient decision-making, maintain yields and reduce environmental impact.

1. Develop standardized methodologies and perform baseline monitoring of carbon, nitrogen and water footprints at agricultural test sites across the Midwest.

2. Evaluate how crop management practices impact carbon, nitrogen and water footprints at test sites.

3. Apply models to research data and climate scenarios to identify impacts and outcomes that could affect the sustainability and economic vitality of corn-based cropping systems.

4. Gain knowledge of farmer beliefs and concerns about climate change, attitudes toward adaptive and mitigative strategies and practices, and decision support needs to inform the development of tools and practices that support long-term sustainability of crop production.

5. Promote extension, outreach and stakeholder learning and participation across all aspects of the program.

6. Train the next generation of scientists, develop science education curricula and promote learning opportunities for high school teachers and students.

Corn is essential in America. The highly versatile crop is an economic powerhouse, employing millions and producing food, feed and fuel. American farmers heavily invest their time, land and money in the crop’s production, planting more than 20 percent of all U.S. cropland to corn. Global and domestic demand for corn continues to rise. However, there is increasing uncertainty about how long-term U.S. climate trends are impacting corn-based cropping systems and threatening agricultural investments. In response, farmers are seeking new ways to ensure continued crop productivity while also minimizing environmental impact.

Researchers from a variety of disciplines are working together to unleash groundbreaking collaborative work. In field sites across the Midwest, researchers are measuring carbon, nitrogen, greenhouse gas and water flows from crop management practices, including tillage, cover crops, corn-soybean rotation, extended crop rotations, controlled drainage water management and nitrogen management techniques. Some researchers are using models to explore how crop management practices on variable soil types and climate conditions affect carbon and nitrogen levels in the water and air. Others are surveying farmers’ current management practices and their adaptation to changing weather patterns. This diverse team is sharing data in a single comprehensive database to bring about greater knowledge and insight on the various implications of the research. Extension and education specialists are using this enhanced understanding to create programs for farmers, teachers and students, and are working to connect them with valuable project resources and analyses.



Project Planning

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  • Field Trials
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  • Systems Analysis and Predictive Modeling
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  • Education & Community