Soil and crop management for biologically based fertility systems

Biologically based soil fertility systems provide multiple ecosystem and crop production services. These systems rely on organic sources of nutrients (e.g., manure, compost, green manure, and plant and seed meals) to meet crop needs. They can replace some or all of the need for synthetic fertilizer, improve soil quality and productivity, and recycle nutrients that might otherwise contaminate ground and surface water. Biologically based fertility systems represent a fundamentally different approach to fertility management than fertilizer-based systems, with concomitant challenges and opportunities. This project addresses different aspects of biologically based system in two contrasting crops, organic bread wheat and lowbush blueberry. Additional studies will be added as needs and funding are identified. For organic bread wheat production, providing adequate nitrogen at the right time in the crop’s development is a key challenge to producing grain that will meet the protein standard required by millers and bakers. Three separate field studies will investigate the effects of rotation and nitrogen sources on plant nitrogen uptake, grain yields, grain protein, and protein quality in both winter and spring wheat. Rotations will include different strategies for incorporating bread wheat into dairy cropping systems. Nitrogen sources will include mixed forage plowdown, red clover plowdown, dairy manure, chicken manure, and dehydrated chicken manure. For lowbush blueberry, biologically based fertility systems hold promise as a means to address soil quality issues while meeting crop nutrient needs. Compost will be compared to an OMRI-approved and a synthetic bagged fertilizer for effects on soil carbon, soil nutrients, blueberry nutrient uptake, flower and fruit set, fruit yield, and fruit quality. This project will develop management strategies for farmers who grow organic bread wheat, lowbush blueberry, and possibly other crops to optimize nitrogen use efficiency, soil quality, crop yields, crop quality, and profitability for cropping systems that use biologically based nutrient sources.

Investigators: Mallory, E.; Camire, M.; Kersbergen, R.

Unit: School of Food and Agriculture

Termination Date: 30-Sep-17