Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Kellogg Biological Station LTER: Field Crop Ecology

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Poster Number: 
Presenter/Primary Author: 
Phil Robertson
S.K. Hamilton
K.L. Gross
D.A. Landis
J.A. Lau
T.M. Schmidt
S.M. Swinton
N. Millar
J.E. Doll

The Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) is 1600 hectares of cropping systems, successional communities, and aquatic habitats set in a diverse, rural-to-semirural landscape typical of the U.S. Great Lakes and upper Midwest regions. Research at KBS asks how diverse plants, animals, and microbes in agricultural landscapes can contribute to agricultural productivity, environmental performance, and profitability. The major goal of the KBS LTER is to test the long-term hypothesis that agronomic management based on ecological knowledge can substitute for management based on chemical subsidies, without sacrificing high crop yields on which farmers and society depends. We study the ecology of major field crop ecosystems at scales that range from field plots to regional landscapes. Annual crops such as corn, soybean, and wheat, perennial crops such as alfalfa, and biofuel crops such as switchgrass and poplars are contrasted with natural forest and successional sites to provide points of comparison for gauging the effects of agricultural management on the structure and function of agricultural systems and on the delivery of ecosystem services.

We focus on three taxonomic groups of particular importance: microbes in soil and streams, invertebrates both above and below ground, and plants both unmanaged and purposely grown. Interactions between and among members of these groups are affected by climate, landscape position, and management practices, and affect crop performance and the delivery of a wide range of ecosystem services that include clean water, greenhouse gas mitigation, biocontrol, pollination, soil fertility, and the production of food, fuel, and fiber.

KBS outreach targets teachers, students, farmers, policymakers, and the general public. The KBS-K12 Partnership provides science teachers from 12 districts around KBS exposure to ecological science and in-depth training to teach inquiry-based science. A GK-12 program places KBS graduate students in K-12 classrooms to co-teach and help introduce activities related to ecological literacy. Professional audiences include extension educators, international agronomists, and agricultural consultants.