RESEARCH PROJECTS

Our Current Focus

Our long-term research goals have grown and developed since our respected Scientific Research Laboratory began work in 2000. However, no matter the challenge, everyone remains enthusiastic and dedicated to the tasks at hand. Find out more below.

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INCREASING WATER PRODUCTIVITY, NUTRIENT USE EFFICIENCY, AND SOIL HEALTH IN RAINFED AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS OF SEMI-ARID SOUTHERN GREAT PLAINS 

Locations: Manhattan - Kansas and Stillwater - Oklahoma
Project funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agricultural systems of the Southern Great Plains (SGP) and similar transitional lands between humid and arid zones around the world are important to global food security. However, persistent yield stagnation, large yield and forage gaps, and low water and nutrient use efficiencies threaten the sustainability of SGP rainfed agricultural systems, leading to extreme fluctuations in both food production and farm income. The combined effects of repeated droughts, monoculture cropping systems, and persistent soil erosion have seriously degraded the region’s soil health. There is a critical need for integrated research, extension, and education efforts to identify and implement management practices that increase the SGP’s agricultural productivity, optimize water and nutrient use efficiency, and protect against yield losses from environmental stresses and weeds while improving soil health. 

The long-term goal of the project team is to sustainably increase the productivity of rainfed agricultural systems in the SGP by increasing precipitation and nitrogen (N) use efficiency and reducing yield losses due to environmental stresses and weed pressure while restoring and enhancing soil health. 

For more information and the current state of the project, please contact Marcos at sarto@ksu.edu

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KANSAS SOIL HEALTH PARTNERSHIP

Locations: Glen Elder, Beloit, Solomon and Bucyrus - Kansas
Project funded by Kansas Corn Growers Association

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is a farmer led initiative that brings together diverse partner organizations including the National Corn Growers Association, federal agencies, universities and environmental groups to work toward the common goal of improving soil health. The SHP is identifying, testing and measuring farm management practices that improve soil health and benefit farmers. 


The ultimate goal is to measure and communicate the economic and environmental benefits of different soil management strategies, and provide a set of regionally specific, data-driven recommendations that farmers can use to improve the productivity and sustainability of their farms.

For more information and the current state of the project, please contact Carlos at carlospires@ksu.edu

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NRCS SOIL HEALTH METRIC RESEARCH

Locations: Tribune, Hays, and Konza - Kansas
Project funded by USDA - NRCS

This project used the precipitation gradient across Kansas from less than 400 mm in the west to over 1000 mm in the east with three land uses. The locations, Tribune (472 mm), Hays (579 mm), and Manhattan (850 mm), KS, were selected for soil characterization. The land uses included native prairie (NP), conventional tillage agriculture (AG), and no-till agriculture (EA). Soil biological, chemical, and physical properties were measured based on USDA-NRCS chosen soil health metrics. 

For more information and the current state of the project, please contact James at jslin@ksu.edu.

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MICROBIOMES OF AQUATIC, PLANT, AND SOIL SYSTEMS (MAPS)

Locations: Manhattan, Hays and Welda - Kansas
Project funded by the National Science Foundation

Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant and Soil Systems (MAPS) across Kansas utilizes fundamental research to determine how microbiomes can enhance productivity, mitigate environmental problems in agricultural-dominated landscapes, and conserve native grasslands and their ecosystem functions. In addition, the MAPS project will investigate the integrated connectivity among microbiomes found in plants, aquatic and soil systems making this project unique and potentially transformative. The project goal is to create an observational and experimental network across the strong precipitation gradient in agriculturally-dominated Kansas, using both agricultural and native sites. This project extends traditional scientific approaches to work at scales ranging from genes to ecosystems, and across habitats (terrestrial to aquatic).

 For more information and the current state of the project, please contact Marcos at sarto@ksu.edu

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PIVOT BIO

Location: Manhattan - Kansas
Project funded by the company Pivot Bio

Proven is a gene-edited bacterial inoculant produced by the company Pivot Bio to grow on cereal crop roots and fix atmospheric Nitrogen (N), which is then available for the plant to take up. Biologically fixed N is advantageous compared to fertilizer N in that it is constantly being applied near the plant roots in a plant available form during the growing season. N fertilizer, on the other hand, is applied once or twice a season in large quantities, which is then susceptible to leaching, volatilization, and denitrification losses, since the plant cannot immediately incorporate the large amount of applied N. N loss from Agronomic systems contributes to water contamination, eutrophication, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as represents resource loss for producers. This means that biologically fixed N represents and source of N that is less susceptible to loss and is therefore more efficient than fertilizer N. Biological N fixation has long been an important part of Legume production, but there have not been effective options for biological N fixation in cereal crops in the past. The goals of this research are to determine the efficacy of Proven as a source of N in two cereal crops, corn and sorghum, across multiple fertilizer N rates, and determine N efficiency both with and without Proven.

For more information and the current state of the project, please contact Will at wgdavis@ksu.edu

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USING ON-FARM SOIL HEALTH TO ENGAGE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

Locations: Bucyrus - Kansas
Project funded by USDA

This project builds upon the Kansas Soil Health Partnership and intends to extend for 2 years the on-farm soil health research conducted at Guetterman Brothers Family Farms (Bucyrus, KS) since 2018 for a total of 7 years. The goals of this project are to (1) evaluate the effect of winter cover crops on soil health and soybean and corn yields; (2) assess the effect of cover crops on soil health indicators (soil organic carbon, microbial community composition, and enzyme activity); (3) quantify the impact of soil health indicators on crop yield; and (4) determine the economic benefits of a long-term (after 7 years) on-farm cover crop adoption. 


The long-term goal for this project is to sustainably increase the productivity of our current (and less diversified) agricultural systems by increasing soil health, removing yield-limiting factors, educating, advocating, and supporting the dissemination and use of cover crops. 


At the end of this project, farmers will: (1) improve and diversify their production systems through data-driven recommendations; (2) identify circumstances where adopting cover crops will not be only a viable option but will demonstrate improvements on soil health and sustainability of their farms; and (3) improve farmers economic well-being, quality of life, and professional inquiry of issues related to environmental stewardship and long-term sustainability. These outcomes represent critical steps toward agricultural systems sustainability and will lead to positive improvements in agricultural productivity and soil health.


 For more information and the current state of the project, please contact Carlos at carlospires@ksu.edu

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ADDITION OF MYCO APPLY TO BUILD AGGREGATION, SOIL HEALTH, AND CARBON SEQUESTRATION

Locations: Manhattan - Kansas
Project funded by Valent BioSciences

With the increasing threat of climate and global change, there is a need to understand how ecosystems will adapt and provide opportunities for mitigation.  This grand challenge of the 21st Century requires concerted efforts to improve our holistic understanding of the complex relationships regulating soil processes.  Determining the regulation of soil structure and C in soil will develop the basis for soil quality and C sequestration in managed ecosystems. 


The main goal of this project is to assess how mycorrhizal fungi can influence soil aggregation carbon sequestration and other soil health characteristics under different phosphorus availability and cover crops. 


This experiment will provide information on how interactions between soil structure and the below-ground biotic community impacts carbon dynamics, and ultimately sequestration into soil organic carbon (SOC). 


For more information and the current state of the project, please contact Endy at endy@ksu.edu.