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I-PLACES Living Laboratory (In Progress)

Description

Funded in Spring 2021, this project seeks to implement an on-campus living laboratory to study a sustainable agricultural system that integrates three elements: a traditional corn/soybean rotation, cover crop seeding, and cattle grazing. 

Cover crops are traditionally planted late in the season, after the cash-crop has been harvested; however, this model is not conducive to a typical fall/spring cattle grazing rotation. Previous research conducted by this team established the feasibility of early-season, under-canopy cover crop planting; building upon these studies, the next step is adding the animals. Integrating strategic cover crop management with cattle grazing has the potential to reduce nitrogen use, increase carbon sequestration, and mitigate weed proliferation in agricultural settings.

Purpose of the Work: Campus Connection

With iSEE seed-funding, the team will create and manage a 160-acre living laboratory on the University of Illinois animal farm fields adjacent to Curtis Road. This site will house multiple 40-acre plots to sustain the corn/soybean rotation and cover crop plantings. Cover crops used in the study will be robotically planted, and include cereal rye and hairy vetch, both considered top-tier in Illinois due to their cold-weather hardiness and nutrient-rich makeup (which is ideal for the team’s proposed fall/spring cattle grazing schedule).

Ultimately, the team will use this model to research agricultural sustainability, farmer profitability, and cattle health and nutrition as a result of grazing on cover crops, setting a precedent for sustainable land stewardship in the Midwest and beyond.

Project Team

  • Team Members:

    • Assoc. Prof. Girish Chowdhary, ABE and C.S.
    • Asst. Prof. Isabella Condotta, Animal Sciences
    • Prof. DK Lee, Crop Sciences
    • Asst. Prof. Joshua McCann, Animal Sciences
    • Assoc. Prof. Dan Shike, Animal Sciences

Dates

  • Proposed November 20, 2020
    Approved January 13, 2021
    Approved by iSEE

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