The University of Maryland is part of a multi-institutional consortium focused on improving water and nitrogen use efficiencies and boosting soil health in the semi-arid southern Great Plains.
The nearly $10 million, five-year project led by Kansas State University and funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture aims to sustainably increase the productivity of rainfed farms in the region.
Dr. Cesar Izaurralde (Institutional PI) and Dr. Varaprasad Bandaru (Co-I) from the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences—together with Dr. Robert G. Chambers (Co-I) from the UMD Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics—will lead the modeling and productivity analyses of the project.
Drs. Izaurralde and Bandaru will use an integrated modeling approach to understand farm and regional scale performance of various agricultural systems designed to improve water use, nitrogen efficiency and soil health under various conditions.
“We expect to discover promising rainfed cropping systems that can increase soil organic matter thus benefitting soil quality and health,” Izaurralde said.
The modeling team will also develop a dynamic decision support system to provide real-time information to farmers for making strategic decisions about things like which crops to grow and when to plant them, the optimal nitrogen level of mid-season fertilization and whether to apply pest and disease control measures. Dr. Chambers will evaluate the performance of current and novel rainfed agricultural systems outlining those that can lead to long-term economic, social and environmental viability.
“The project is expected to result in fundamental knowledge of beneficial crop rotations and crop management technologies with the goal of developing resilient agricultural systems to improve food production in the U.S. and around the world,” Bandaru said.
Other institutions involved in the effort include the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Oklahoma State University.