LAS CRUCES – When local farmers have questions, researchers from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the State University of New Mexico seek solutions. The long-term project for research and demonstration of soil health, which began in the spring of 2021 and is hosted by the NMSU Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center, is the result of such a request.
“The project was inspired by the fact that many growers asked how different management practices affect soil health in the short and long term in irrigation drought systems,” said John Idovu, plant science extension specialist / extension agronomist. . “However, due to the lack of research information on the long-term impacts of soil health practices, we have not been able to provide effective responses to meet the needs of farmers in the region.
The New Mexico Ministry of Agriculture’s Healthy Soil Program is funding the creation of the Leyendecker plot. The aim of the Healthy Soil program is to promote and support agricultural and livestock systems and other forms of land management that increase soil organic matter, aggregate stability, microbiology and water retention to improve health, yield and profitability. The NMDA also funded the purchase of some of the equipment used to measure soil health parameters.
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A project funded by the National Food and Agriculture Institute of the United States Department of Agriculture, “Maintaining Groundwater and Irrigated Agriculture in the Southwestern United States in a Changing Climate,” supported the hiring of a Ph.D. the student to collect research data on long-term soil health research and demonstration plots for the next four years.
“Another motivation for launching the project is to help growers in the region develop sustainable crop systems against the changing weather patterns they face,” Idova said. “The application of soil health practices has been shown to help make crop systems more resilient to climate change.
“From the site for long-term soil health, we will learn how the various practices we test affect the sustainability of crop production in our region,” Idovu said. “We will learn how soil health practices affect the environment by documenting their impact on carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions.
Another advantage of the project allows researchers to teach farmers how to incorporate soil health practices into their farming systems by conducting field days. In April, the NMSU hosted the first such event, which allowed farmers to visit the Läändecker Research Site to view the plots and ask specific questions.
“The day of the field for biochar and soil health went very well,” Idovu said. “The field day included a discussion of various treatments for soil health. The participants went through the Polesie plots to see the planted winter cover crops and we made a field demonstration of measuring soil compaction with a penetrometer and measuring infiltration with a single-ring infiltrometer. We also demonstrated how to make biochar using the Ring of Fire furnace during the field day and discussed how modifying biochar can improve soil health and release carbon into the soil.
Additional benefits of the research site include providing valuable information on sustainable irrigation systems for growing and managing soil health.
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“We will also integrate digital agriculture into our production system, using sensor-based irrigation and drone-based monitoring for early detection of crop stress,” Idovu said. “Digital farming will help producers improve their on-farm decision-making processes and increase efficiency by channeling resources where they are needed in a timely manner.”
An Eye on Research is provided by the State University of New Mexico. This week’s article was written by Tiffany Acosta of Marketing and Communications. It can be found at [email protected]
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