NCERA_OLD059: Soil Organic Matter: Formation, Function and Management (new project)
- October 01, 2006 to September 30, 2011
- Administrative Advisor(s):
- NIFA Reps:
Statement of Issue(s) and Justification:Many contemporary environmental and ecological challenges facing society are related to the management of soil organic matter (SOM). These include sequestration of C in soil, fate and transport of pollutants, soil bioremediation, crop nutrition, and sustainable ecosystem management. NCERA-59 is the only multi-state group in the U.S. dedicated to the discussion of SOM and its role in affecting soil biological, chemical and physical properties. The work of this committee helps us understand how soil management can enhance soil nutrient cycling and other ecosystem services. This research and outreach effort is important for the protection of soil resources, reduction of environmental impacts from agricultural activity, and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. To work toward these goals, the committee will continue to research the genesis, composition, reactivity and function of particulate and humic substances.
Many scientists outside the North Central Region participate regularly in the annual meeting of the committee. One of the most important functions of NCERA-59 is to provide an informal setting for exchanging ideas among scientists interested in the various roles of SOM in the functioning of ecosystems. The technical outreach component of this committee has been especially important in transferring information to its members as well as to the general research community. In addition, many of the efforts of committee members have influenced policy at both the state and local level. The committee is especially valuable for younger scientists, since it provides an excellent opportunity for them to interact with experienced SOM researchers from different areas of the country. A major strength of the NCERA-59 group is the diversity of member research interests in microbial, biochemical, chemical, physical and applied aspects of SOM dynamics.
The NCERA-59 committee proposes to continue its historical mission of promoting research cooperation among its members, fostering interest in understanding the basic principles of organic matter formation, humus chemistry, and SOM dynamics, and applying such knowledge to problems of regional and national scope. The committee also proposes to continue providing leadership in initiating, planning and implementing timely symposia on the role of SOM in issues of public concern such as C sequestration, biodiversity, soil and water quality, and sustainability of the soil resource. This remains an important function of the committee, with numerous symposia and proceedings having been organized since its inception.
- Coordinate research collaboration and information exchange on the biochemistry, biological transformations, and physical/chemical fractions of soil organic matter. Applications of this work can help to: (a) increase nutrient cycling and use efficiency in cropping systems, (b) conserve and store carbon in soils; and (c) remediate degraded or contaminated soils.
- Identify and evaluate indicators for soil ecological management. Currently, some committee members are performing more detailed chemical characterizations of physically extracted fractions to better understand how these fractions are involved in carbon and nitrogen cycling in soils. Others are testing measures such as particulate organic matter and potentially mineralizable C and N pools as indicators to predict nutrient release from green manure or cover crops, indicate soil carbon storage potential, or assess stress or resilience of soils impacted by agricultural and other anthropogenic activities.
- Conduct outreach activities to scientists in related disciplines and practitioners to promote the ecological management of soils, including practices that repair or sustain functionally important soil organic matter fractions in both managed and undisturbed systems.
- Co-sponsor soil organic matter/soil quality symposia at national and international meetings.
- Interact with other regional committees as appropriate.
Procedures and Activities1) We will accomplish Objectives 1&2 through the following targeted activities:
(a) annual committee meetings, each focused on one of the themes listed in Obj. 1&2, utilizing roundtable discussions, invited and NCERA-59 participant presentations, and field or lab tours for reporting results and information exchange;
(b) exploring funding for collaborative research grant opportunities on SOM relative to analysis of organic matter fractions and their importance in the functioning and restoration of ecosystems;
(c) subgroups of members with specific interests will summarize their work for presentation at national meetings and in review papers.
2) Outreach activities will include the collection and dissemination of research findings and advances in SOM management on the internet as well as with scientists in related fields at meetings organized under Objectives 4&5. For example, several committee members are collaborating to develop regionally appropriate and environmentally sound recommendations to improve nitrogen efficiency in the Midwest through soil carbon management.
3) We will work with national and international societies to co-sponsor soil organic matter oriented symposia that emphasize research on humus chemistry, the role of soil organic matter in C sequestration and nutrient cycling, biodiversity, soil and water quality, and productivity. The Soil Science Society of America, International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS), International Humic Substances Society and the American Geophysical Union are examples of societies that actively engage in areas directly related to the goals of NCERA-59. Many of the members of NCERA-59 are participants in these societies and actively engage in symposia and publications that these societies produce. For example, at the July, 2006 meeting of the IUSS in Philadelphia, NCERA-59 will sponsor a seminar on microbial habitat and soil organic matter.
4) We will coordinate NCERA-59 meetings with other appropriate CSREES committees, including NC-1017 that has a focus on erosion and C losses at landscape levels, as well as other groups. This July, we plan to meet with NC-1017 in Philadelphia, before the IUSS meetings.
Expected Outcomes and Impacts:
- There will be a synergistic impact on the research programs of NCERA-59 members through exchange of ideas, information, and data. Collaborations among members will result in scientific publications and reviews. One example that will be studied by the committee is the controversy about whether no-till systems are actually superior to conventional systems in sequestering soil carbon. Some recent research has shown that in some cases there can be as much or more C sequestration with conventional as with no-till agriculture. There has been little systematic review of the literature and data across the US or Canada to develop an understanding of the mechanism or significance of these recent findings. Effect of crop rotation diversity on soil C sequestration is also little studied; studies in both no-till and conventional systems are based on low diversity crop systems. Consideration of crop diversity effects on soil C dynamics follows up on recent endeavors by the committee to understand the relationship between soil C dynamics and soil quality. The ability of our committee to bring a broad perspective to this question has important implications for assigning C credit based on soil management techniques.
- Web-based and regionally coordinated outreach efforts will facilitate the application of SOM research to promote better management by practitioners and transfer practical information to policy makers. The establishment of a web-based portal is an important mechanism to transfer information about soil management in different (regional) land use environments. Increasingly this is becoming the primary source of information for land managers. Information on soil organic matter is of critical interest to farmers and agricultural professionals because it is key to the sustainable management of ecosystems. For example, it will provide practitioners and policy makers with the latest information about which agricultural practices are best for sequestering C in soils. Another focus will be on soil carbon management recommendations that can improve nitrogen use efficiency and balance in Midwest row crop production. As part of a long-term outreach effort, the committee also supports the initiation and maintenance of a wide range of outreach materials available through a website on soil quality http://csltest.ait.iastate.edu/SoilQualityWebsite/home.htm.
- Organizing symposia at national and international meetings will continue to promote information exchange among the professional community. Our face to face NCERA-59 meetings over several days provide a unique opportunity to develop timely and emerging ideas for symposia and to identify speakers. Additionally, this time enables us to explore alternative formats for conferences such as focus sessions with stakeholders. Consequently, the organizing efforts of our committee for conferences and symposium will have high impacts due to well-considered formats and choice of speakers. Over the last three years, NCERA-59 has sponsored five symposia at professional societies, including the Soil Science Society of America, Soil Ecological Society, CASMGS (Consortium for Agricultural Soils Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases), National Association of County Agricultural Agents and a Natural Organic Matter workshop. A seminal symposium in 2004 at the Soil Science Society of America meeting summarized the state of knowledge for quantitatively measuring soil organic matter fractions. Over 200 leading scientists participated, which will improve research methodology in laboratories across the US as the information is published and becomes widely available. Additional symposia for 2006 are already being planned.
- By identifying common research interests among members, NCERA-59 will facilitate subgroups of collaborators obtaining grant funding in key areas related to soil organic matter research. For example, several committee members have long-term plots on minimum tillage and other sustainable management treatments in their home states. Our meetings will provide an opportunity to share preliminary data, strategize, and solidify plans for proposals related to soil organic matter research. Four collaborative grant proposals from NCERA-59 members were authored in the last three years.
Project Participation:Include a completed Appendix E form
Education and outreach will be accomplished through the following activities:
(1) Significant contributions resulting from idea and information exchange by the committee will be summarized in review papers and/or presented at national meetings.
(2) Symposia will be organized at national meetings to promote information exchange among the professional community.
(3) Updates will be made to the soil quality website and additional information about soil carbon management will be placed on the web to help practitioners implement better management practices and to inform policy makers.
(4) Committee efforts will inform presentations by committee members to policy makers and extension educators.
The recommended Standard Governance for multistate research activities include the election of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a CSREES Representative.
Literature Cited:NCERA-59 committee members have advanced graduate and undergraduate training by editing a book on soil organic matter and authoring five chapters as listed below.
Magdoff, F. and R.R. Weil (eds). 2004. Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture, Advances in Agroecology Series: Volume 11. CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Weil, R.R. and F. Magdoff. 2004. Significance of soil organic matter to soil quality and health, pp. 1-44, In Magdoff, F. and R.R. Weil (eds), Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture, Advances in Agroecology Series: Volume 11. CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Weil, R.R.and F. Magdoff. 2004. Soil organic matter management strategies, pp. 45-66, In Magdoff, F. and R.R. Weil (eds), Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture, Advances in Agroecology Series: Volume 11. CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Wander, M. 2004. Soil organic matter fractions and their relevance to soil function, pp. 67-102, In Magdoff, F. and R.R. Weil (eds), Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture, Advances in Agroecology Series: Volume 11. CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Stone, A.G., S.J. Scheuerell and H.M. Darby. 2004. Suppression of diseases in field agricultural systems: Organic matter management, cover cropping, and other cultural practices, pp. 131-178, In Magdoff, F. and R.R. Weil (eds), Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture, Advances in Agroecology Series: Volume 11. CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Seiter, S. and W.R. Horwath. 2004. Strategies for managing soil organic matter to supply plant nutrients, pp. 269-294 In Magdoff, F. and R.R. Weil (eds), Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture, Advances in Agroecology Series: Volume 11. CRC Press, Boca Raton.
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