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University launches long-term research network

ST. CHARLES, Minn. — In an effort to address specific agricultural questions in a multi-disciplinary way, the University of Minnesota is launching a long-term agricultural research network.

ST. CHARLES — In an effort to address specific agricultural questions in a multi-disciplinary way, the University of Minnesota is launching a long-term agricultural research network.

Located at the research and outreach centers in Waseca, Lamberton and Grand Rapids for the time being, the goal is to expand to include Morris and Crookston, said Gregg Johnson, a University of Minnesota associate professor in agronomy and plant genetics based at the Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca.

Johnson spoke at Winter Crops Day on Jan. 13 in St. Charles.

In its second year, the network wants to address important questions with a focus on agricultural production.

They will take one question and compare it to the standard production system, Johnson said. One person at the meeting asked what type of tillage is used at the plots. The tillage system practiced in the area is the standard practiced in the plots, he said. A question for evaluation could be comparing a different type of tillage.

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When compared, several questions can be answered, he said. Instead of just finding out how it affects yield, environmental data, agronomic data, soil data and other data, including information on the nematodes and microbial community will be compiled. It won't be just one group doing the research, rather all will be tied together and bouncing ideas off one another to see how practices are intertwined and what one change does to a system.

A whole litany of questions can be answered, Johnson said.

The long-term over-arching question is "how do we improve nitrogen use efficiency?" he said.

Experiments will take place over two to three years and answer specific questions feeding into the long-term question.

The goal is to develop systems that balance competing desires, Johnson said, and be able to say what the trade-offs are.

University researchers are in the process of writing grant proposals to fund work in the long-term agro-ecosystem research network.

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