Improving soil health and fertility for sustainable crop production in Texas
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Production of crops in the southern United States benefits from the warm climate and long growing seasons. However, intensive crop production depletes the soil of nutrients and utilizes more water than native ecosystems. For sustainable production, nutrients must be replaced periodically, but replacement of nutrients is often inefficient resulting in leaching and erosion of nutrients into water resources. In addition, crop production requires more water than native ecosystems. Lack of water is common in the South, particularly in the semi-arid to arid ecoregions of Texas, and competition for water resources has been increasing with population and industrial growth. Sustainable agronomic production requires maintaining or improving soil health, particularly organic matter, to encourage nutrient recycling and efficient use of water, while also minimizing erosion and loss of organic matter. To meet these challenges, it is essential to understand the impacts of crop management on soil health and develop novel approaches to improving sustainable crop production that is economically viable for producers to adopt. In addition, it benefits society as a whole as it reduces negative environmental impacts and lessens the demand for water and energy by agriculture.The overall goal of this research is to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of crop production in Texas and the southern United States by understanding the effect of management practices on soil health and by evaluation of novel approaches to crop production systems. To accomplish this goal, field and laboratory research will be conducted to evaluate management practices and their overall impact to production, to the environment, and economics. The impact from this research helps ensure a consistent,economical, and sustainable food and fiber supply with reduced impact to the environment.