IUPUI scientist to lead $500K NIFA grant to improve agricultural resilience through conservation practices

INDIANAPOLIS—An associate professor of earth sciences at the School of Science at IUPUI has received a four-year half million-dollar grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“This research aims to understand whether conservation practices of cover cropping, and no-till can jointly increase agricultural resilience to climate variability and reduce agricultural environmental impacts,” said Lixin Wang, who will lead the award.

With global food demands rising every day, the push is on to find crops that will withstand greater climate variabilities. Previously, efforts to reduce the impact of those variabilities focused on the introduction of new crop cultivars. This new research will build on past research Wang completed with professor Pierre-Andre Jacinthe and professor Lin Li.

“In that project, we aimed to understand the impact of drought on nutrient leaching and agricultural yield. This project is building on findings from this earlier project and answering new questions about cover cropping impacts,” said Wang.

Without agriculture, there is no food. Right now, agriculture is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere and extra nutrients to the aquatic ecosystems. Both have negative impacts on our environment, like amplifying climate variability and algae blooms. The goal of this research will focus on reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture while making sure there is sustainable food production.

This new study will include field observations at Indiana farms and assess the effectiveness of combining several different agricultural practices on production resilience and greenhouse gas emission mitigations through their observations along with data synthesis and modelling to make future predictions.

“We aim to understand how tillage and residue management practices quantitatively affect crop yield in responses to climate variability, and how residue management practices (with and without cover crops) in combination with different tillage practices contribute to greenhouse gas emission and nutrient leaching in a changing climate,” said Wang.

Wang said this award significantly strengthens his ability to conduct research in the field of agriculture. Wang and Jacinthe are actively recruiting a PhD student for fall 2021 to conduct this exciting project.

In addition to Wang and Jacinthe, Wei Ren, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky will be leading the modeling and prediction efforts of this research.