Long-Term, Large-Scale Systems Research Directed Toward Agricultural Sustainability

A. Wossink, J.P. Mueller, N.G. Creamer, M. Barbercheck, Ch Raczkowski, M. Bell, C. Brownie, A. Collins, K. Fager, S. Hu, L. Jackson, S. Koenning, N. Kuminoff, M. Linker, F. Louws, S. Mellage, D. Monks, D. Orr, R. Walters, J. SeemC. Tu, M. Wagger, A. Zhang, J. Raupp (Editor), C. Pekrun (Editor), M. Oltmanns (Editor), U. Koepke (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A long term, large-scale study comparing five farming systems was initiated in September 1998 at the Center for Environmental Farming System located near Goldsboro, North Carolina, USA. The systems include: (1) conventional short-rotation best management practices (BMP); (2) cropping and animal husbandry (C/A); (3) organic production system (ORG); (4) plantation forestry/woodlot system (FOR); and (5) old field successional ecosystem (SUCC). Data reported hitherto were observations from the first five years of the study. In general, soil samples from the C/A-p and SUCC were found to have higher air-dry aggregate stability than the ORG and BMP-ct (conventional tillage) and -nt (no-tillage) subplots. Bulk density was lowest in ORG and highest in C/A-p. Analysis of phospholipid fatty acid composition of soil microbes revealed the divergence of the microbial community structure among ecosystems with high microbial diversity in organic and no-tillage systems. The numbers of free-living bactivores and fungivores, apparently responding to organic sources of nitrogen including a winter cover crop, were higher in organic than in BMP-ct systems in July but not in other dates in 2001. The numbers of predatory nematodes were highest in the FOR-bw and the SUCC systems. Cumulative abundance of soil microarthropods was higher in the ORG than in BMP-ct, FOR-bw and pasture C/A-p subplots, but not different from BMP-nt and SUCC systems. This pattern was driven by the abundance of soil mites, which comprised approximately 70% of the sampled arthropod community. Collembola and all other arthropods comprised approximately 20 and 10% of the soil arthropod communities, respectively. In the first two years, the organic system was most effective in enhancing soil microbial biomass C and N among the transition strategies. By the third year, soil microbial biomass C and N in the reduced-input transition strategies were significantly higher than those in the conventional (averaging 32 and 35% higher, respectively), although they were slightly lower than those in the organic (averaging 13 and 17% lower, respectively). Data also suggest that an organic transition strategy that first replaces synthetic fertilizers with organic sources may be the best approach for growers from transition to organic.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLong-Term Field Experiments in Organic farming
Subtitle of host publicationThe International Society for Organic Agricultural Research (ISOFAR) Series No. 1
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherVerlag Dr. Koester
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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