LAS CRUCES – When local agricultural producers have questions, researchers in New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences attempt to search out options. The long-term soil health research and demonstration project, which started in spring 2021 and is hosted on the NMSU Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center, is the results of one such request.
“The project was inspired by the fact that many producers were asking about how different management practices affect soil health in the short and long term in the arid irrigated cropping systems,” stated John Idowu, Extension Plant Sciences Extension specialist/Extension agronomist. “However, due to the lack of research information on the long-term impacts of soil health practices, we could not provide effective answers that address the needs of farmers in the region.”
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Soil Program funded the institution of the plot at Leyendecker. The objective of the Healthy Soil Program is “to promote and support farming and ranching systems and other forms of land management that increase soil organic matter, aggregate stability, microbiology, and water retention to improve the health, yield, and profitability of the soils of the state.” NMDA additionally funded the acquisition of some gear used to measure soil health parameters.
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A United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded project, “Sustaining Groundwater and Irrigated Agriculture in the Southwestern U.S. under a Changing Climate,” supported the hiring of a Ph.D. scholar to gather research information on the long-term soil health research and demonstration plots for the subsequent 4 years.
“Another motivation for starting the project is to help producers in the region develop resilient cropping systems against the variable weather patterns that they are facing,” Idowu stated. “Implementing soil health practices has been shown to help make cropping systems more resilient against climate change.
“From the long-term soil health site, we will learn how the different practices we are testing influence the sustainability of crop production in our region,” Idowu stated. “We will learn how soil health practices are affecting the environment by documenting their impacts on carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Another advantage of the project permits researchers to coach farmers on learn how to incorporate soil health practices into their farming programs by internet hosting area days. In April, NMSU hosted the primary such occasion that allowed farmers to go to the research web site at Leyendecker to look at the plots and ask particular questions.
“The Biochar and Soil Health Field Day went very well,” Idowu stated. “The field day featured a discussion of different soil health treatments. Participants walked through the field plots to examine the winter cover crops that were planted, and we did a field demonstration of soil compaction measurement with a penetrometer and infiltration measurement with a single-ring infiltrometer. We also demonstrated how to make biochar using the ‘Ring of Fire’ kiln during the field day and discussed how biochar amendment can improve soil health and sequester carbon in the soil.”
Additional advantages of the research web site embrace providing precious info on sustainable irrigated cropping programs and soil health administration.
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“We will also be incorporating digital agriculture into our production system by using sensor-based irrigation and drone-based monitoring for the early detection of stresses in crops,” Idowu stated. “Digital agriculture will assist producers to improve their farm decision-making processes and enhance efficiency by targeting resources to where they are needed in a timely manner.”
“Eye on Research” is supplied by New Mexico State University. This week’s characteristic was written by Tiffany Acosta of Marketing and Communications. She could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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