New research looks at how cover crops can contribute to mitigating climate variability
A Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientist is among a team of 140 researchers at 10 Midwestern universities working on the Climate and Corn-Based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Alexandra Kravchenko, associate professor in the MSU Department of Crop, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and several other researchers at MSU are focused on explaining the mechanisms by which cover crops increase carbon sequestration, to what extent that affects greenhouse gas emissions, and how cover crops influence corn yields and soil nitrates. She is particularly interested in how variable field topography affects the benefits of cover cropping.
Two new MSU experimental sites with diverse topography have been established to use for the research studies. One site is at an MSU farm in Mason, Mich.; the other is at the Kellogg Biological Station, one of 13 AgBioResearch research facilities in the state.
The work is particularly important in light of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment, released in draft form Jan. 11, which predicts “profound” effects on agriculture and rural economies, and forecasts rising temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, disappearing coastlines, extreme weather and frequent heat waves.
Members of the MSU research team are Bruno Basso, an associate professor in the MSU Department of Geological Sciences, who works on modeling for the project; Martin Chilvers, a visiting assistant professor in the MSU Department of Plant Pathology, who is involved in the integrated pest management component of the project; and Marilyn Thelen, who represents MSU in the Extension component of the project.