Mapping Conservation Management Practices and Outcomes in the Corn Belt Using the Operational Tillage Information System (OpTIS) and the Denitrification–Decomposition (DNDC) Model | Land Portal
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Land Journal Volume 9 Issue 11 cover image

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Date of publication: 
Noviembre 2020
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© 2020 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article.

Identifying and quantifying conservation-practice adoption in U.S. cropland is key to accurately monitoring trends in soil health regionally and nationally and informing climate change mitigation efforts. We present the results of an automated system used across 645 counties in the United States Corn Belt from 2005 to 2018, mapped at field-scale and summarized for distribution at aggregated scales. Large-scale mapping by OpTIS (Operational Tillage Information System), a software tool that analyzes remotely sensed data of agricultural land, provides trends of conservation tillage (defined as >30% residue cover), cover cropping, and crop rotations, while modeling by DNDC (Denitrification–Decomposition), a process-based model of carbon and biogeochemistry in soil, provides estimates of the ecosystem outcomes associated with the changes in management practices mapped by OpTIS. Ground-truthing data acquired via OpTIS mobile, a roadside field-surveying app, were used for verification in 30 counties. OpTIS results for the Corn Belt show adoption of cover crops after planting corn and soy increased from 1% to 3% of the mapped area when comparing 2006 to 2018. Comparison of trends for conservation tillage use from 2006 to 2018 shows a slight decrease in conservation tillage adoption, from 46% to 44%. Results from DNDC show these soils sequestered soil organic carbon (SOC) at an area-weighted mean change in SOC (dSOC) rate of 161 kgC/ha/year. Comparatively, in a scenario modeled without the adoption of soil health management practices, the same soils would have lost SOC at an area-weighted rate of −65 kgC/ha/year. As many factors affect changes to SOC, including climate and initial SOC in soils, modeling counterfactual scenarios at the field scale demonstrates outcomes of current soil health management in comparison to regional management practices and best management practices, with respect to SOC sequestration. Regional trends in adoption rates of conservation agriculture and resulting soil health implications are of great use for a wide range of stakeholders. We demonstrate the capability of OpTIS remote sensing to deliver robust, large-scale, multi-sensor, ground-verified monitoring data of current and historical adoption of conservation practices, and of DNDC process-based modeling to provide assessments of the associated environmental outcomes across regions in U.S. cropland.

Autores y editores

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 
Hagen, Stephen C. Delgado, Grace Ingraham, Peter Cooke, Ian Emery, Richard P. Fisk, Justin Melendy, Lindsay Olson, Thomas Patti, Shawn Rubin, Nathanael Ziniti, Beth Chen, Haixin Salas, William Elias, Pipa Gustafson, David

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