MADISON, WI, March 15, 2010-The emergence of biofuels into agricultural systems presents new opportunities for farmers to improve economic return while providing critical ecosystem services. Integrating perennial crops can help meet food, fuel and fiber needs, but will require an understanding of biomass productivity on specific landscape positions and environments. To diversify their farms, farmers will need to know where their crops will give them the best yield.
Landscape processes, such as hill slope length and gradient, water retention and flow patterns, and soil properties have been shown to influence crop yield. In recent years, the process of describing and analyzing landscape terrain features has become more accurate and precise due to advances in Geographic Information Systems technology, allowing farmers and landowners to explore new cropping systems design strategies, such as directed placement of annual and perennial crops.
Scientists at the University of Minnesota led by Gregg Johnson investigated differences in woody and herbaceous crop productivity and biomass yield as a function of landscape position at the field scale. Results from this study were published in the 2010 March-April issue of the Agronomy Journal. The journal is published by the American Society of Agronomy. The study was supported by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment at the University of Minnesota.
The researchers sleeved seven varying landscape positions to represent a range of topographical features common to the region with varying soil moisture and erosion characteristics. Within each landscape position, a series of woody and herbaceous annual and perennial crops were planted. Crops included alfalfa, corn, willow, cottonwood, poplar, and switchgrass.
The results of this study demonstrate that hillslope processes influence biomass productivity. Corn grain and stover yield was lowest in flat and depositional ar
|Contact: Sara Uttech|
American Society of Agronomy