Design, rationale and methodological considerations for a long term alternative cropping experiment in the Canadian plain region.

Brandt, S.A., Thomas, A.G., Olfert, O.O., Leeson, J.Y., Ulrich, D.J., and Weiss, R.M. (2009). "Design, rationale and methodological considerations for a long term alternative cropping experiment in the Canadian plain region.", European Journal of Agronomy, 32(1), pp. 73-79. doi : 10.1016/j.eja.2009.07.006  Access to full text

Abstract

An interdisciplinary field experiment was initiated to evaluate sustainability of crop production in the Canadian Prairie region. The objective was to develop a resource that would be used to measure change over time associated with input and cropping diversity strategies. The knowledge generated would serve to provide early indications of potential problems and to guide development of improved systems. The study was located near the geographic center of the region on the transition between the semi-arid prairie and the sub-humid parkland regions. The design of the study is reported here, while later papers will report and discuss treatment responses. The study is based on three levels of inputs; organic, reduced and high combined with three levels of cropping diversity: low, diversified annual grains and diversified annual perennial to give a matrix of nine treatments. The site was uniformly cropped and characterized for one year prior to imposition of the treatments, and results used to validate the experimental design. Systems were defined by general principles that incorporate flexibility and allow systems to be changed so they could function in a near optimal state. Several grassland sites and one native prairie site located nearby were characterized as reference points for examining biodiversity and soil quality attributes of the treatments. To accommodate multidisciplinary use of the data, a central database was developed that allows all collaborating scientists to access the data, yet protects data integrity. Overall results to date provide a clear indication that the study provides a resource that is well suited to meet the objectives.

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