Understanding carbon dynamics: Agronomic, socioeconomic, and biophysical tradeoffs in the sustainability of multifunctional cropping systems in the Northern Great Plains.

We recognize that new agricultural objectives—biofuel production, carbon sequestration, product identity value, and natural resource conservation—along with the historic objective of commodity production, represent complex economic and possible sustainability tradeoffs. Only a fundamental knowledge of the processes linking these agroecosystem services will allow US agriculture to react sustainably to world climate change, population growth, and market dynamics. Carbon is a logical currency to use to understand fundamental biogeochemical processes. We intend to focus our study on the carbon, water  and associated nutrient cycles in an agroecosystem. Starting with an existing core group of scientists and farmers with a 10-year history of cooperation, we have assembled an expanded multidisciplinary team to design specific experiments at a range of spatial scales as well as unique mechanisms to derive and extend knowledge from the experiments and interrelationships. We have identified umbrella questions related to understanding agroecosystem dynamics that will drive the design of our LTARS.

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