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Studies find that diverse land covers boost yields for major U.S. crops

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Specializing in monocultures, or single crops, covering larger fields that can be harvested with larger machines in a simplified landscape is widely believed to increase the capacity of the farm. However, major studies in the continental United States suggest that the opposite is true. Nature food Published the research.


Emory Birchfield, an assistant professor of environmental science at Emory University and co-author of the study, said: “And when combined with land cover diversity and more complex landscape composition, corn and wheat yields increase by more than 20 percent.”

Burchfield’s work combines spatiotemporal, social, and environmental data to understand the future of US food and water security and the consequences of climate change.She shares the author Nature food A treatise with Catherine Nelson, Faculty of Geographical and Spatial Sciences, Kansas State University.

This study has major implications for helping farmers adapt Climate change.. “Agriculture is already one of the most difficult tasks on the planet,” says Burchfield. “And many people’s lives rely on cropping systems that are likely to be unsustainable after 30 years. Landscape diversification increases resilience to climate change, both nationally and on a farm scale. Seems to be an important factor for abnormal weather. ”

Agriculture has fundamentally changed the landscape of the planet, the authors say. Globally, agriculture occupies one-third of all ice-free land. In the United States, agriculture occupies more than half of the country, and more than two-thirds is grown on commercial crops of corn, wheat and soybeans.

It is well known that diverse landscapes are associated with healthier ecosystems and benefit environmental factors that are also important to agriculture, such as pollination, water retention and soil quality. Small-scale field-scale trials suggest that adding diversity and complexity to landscapes such as hedgerows and natural habitats in the field may also help crop yields.

In the current treatise, researchers explored how such diversity and complexity affect crop yields from a large national perspective. They extracted from publicly accessible data such as the USDA CropScape data layer, the PRISM Climate Group’s daily weather data, and the Natural Commodity Crop Productive Index’s soil and landscape properties. They integrated the data into a crop analysis computer model, Yield 3,100 US counties covering the entire continental United States from 2008 to 2018.

This model was then used to test the impact of landscape diversity and complexity on the yields of major US food crops of corn, wheat and soybeans. Researchers managed factors such as weather, soil quality, water access, and market volatility.

The results showed that increased land cover diversity was associated with an increase of more than 10% in corn and wheat. This is similar to the effects of seasonal rainfall and soil compatibility. Also, moderately complex and highly diverse landscape compositions are associated with increased corn and wheat yields by more than 20%.

Researchers are currently delving into how landscape diversity and complexity can be optimally applied on a regional scale.

“The United States is huge and there can be no one-size-fits-all strategy,” says Birchfield. “We will zoom in on different regions and consider barriers and bridges to diversification in each region. Our work is to allow farmers to deliberately diversify their landscapes, livelihoods and resilience to climate. We hope to be able to provide data-driven evidence to help enhance change. Resilience Of the ecosystem. ”


Crop insurance and unintended consequences


For more information:
Catherine S. Nelson et al., Landscape Complexity and US Crop Production, Nature food (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s43016-021-00281-1

Provided by
Emory University

Quote: Diverse land cover boosts yields of major US crops, findings (2021, September 2) https://phys.org/news/2021-09-diverse-landcover-boosts-yields-major Obtained from .html on September 2, 2021

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Studies find that diverse land covers boost yields for major U.S. crops

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