Baseline Monitoring and Experimental Trials

Our multi-state team developed standardized methodologies and is performing baseline monitoring of carbon, nitrogen and water footprints at agricultural test sites across the Midwest. This work is key in evaluating how various crop management practices impact carbon, nitrogen and water footprints at test sites.


Scientists are acquiring field research data centered around current and novel crop management practices. These practices have the potential to increase resiliency of corn-based cropping systems to a changing climate while also mitigating the carbon, nitrogen and water footprints.

Standardized Methodologies

Adpoting standardized protocols for measuring C, N, water and other variables is a crucial first step in establishing sound, reputable science and generating a dataset that is highly functional and usable among many scientists. Protocols carried out identically at all of this project’s research sites allows for seamless data entry into a central database, provides a consistent set of data for systems analysis and predictive modeling, and gives data users greater confidence when accessing and using the data.

Project researchers established and implemented standardized methodologies for measuring soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen, soil physical properties, water quality and volume, greenhouse gas (nitrous oxide [N2O], carbon dioxide [CO2], and methane [CH4]), crop biomass, C and N in biomass and grain, insect and disease pressure, and grain yield.

Field Research Trials

An expansive field research network of 35 field sites provide data to the project. Treatments vary from site to site, but every site includes a corn-soybean rotation or continuous corn plot acting as a comparative baseline. Treatments employed across the network include:

– extended crop rotations (wheat)

– cover crops integrated into corn-soybean systems

– tillage management

– drainage water management

– nitrogen management

– landscape

Researchers are measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 31 of 35 research sites. Measuring GHG emissions in agricultural systems can be complex due to a range of variables, including cropping systems, soil variables (type and drainage), landscape characteristics and local climate.