Related ATTRA Tutorial:
Researchers from the University of New Hampshire, working with colleagues from the University of California-Davis and the National Center of Atmospheric Research, have created guidelines to help Midwest farmers manage nitrogen losses while dealing with the effects of climate variability. The research was presented in the journal Nature Sustainability. Researchers recognized that a variable climate with erratic rainfall and dry spells could increase nitrogen losses from soil, negatively impacting agriculture. The team analyzed nitrogen data in relation to precipitation patterns, agricultural methods, and ecological concerns and used this information to develop recommendations that are both environmentally friendly and farmer-friendly. Among the recommendations are combining improved practices within and adjacent to crop fields, such as utilizing cover cropping, crop rotations, strips of perennial plants, and restored wetlands. Researchers also recommend taking advantage of new cash crop varieties and emerging technologies that better synchronize fertilization to plants' nitrogen needs. "If an agricultural ecosystem’s overall resilience to fluctuating conditions is improved, farmers and the environment will both win. Crops will thrive, water quality will improve, and fewer greenhouse gasses will escape into the atmosphere," said lead author Tim Bowles.