by Shawn Wade for Plains Cotton Growers
A team of scientists from Texas A&M AgriLife has received a $10 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to improve agricultural production and evaluate the impacts of regenerative agriculture in semi-arid ecoregions in Texas and Oklahoma.
From carbon sequestration to greenhouse gas emissions to cover crops, this will measure soil carbon capture and greenhouse gas emissions in the field in the sustainable agriculture study.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Research soil scientist Katie Lewis, Ph.D., of Lubbock, will lead the project which aims to further understand and encourage the widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture practices that increase crop production and profitability while reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.
Discussing the project, Lewis said, “relationships between soil health and implementation of regenerative practices, agricultural production, climate change and regional economics are complex and poorly understood, particularly in the Southern Great Plains.”
The five-year study titled, “Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Enhancement Through the Utilization of Regenerative Agricultural Management Practices,” will be funded by the $10 million USDA NIFA grant.
“What’s so exciting about this research is it will be the first regenerative agriculture project to cover this large of an area across both Texas and Oklahoma,” Lewis said. “With carbon being such a hot topic, we want to take a closer look at carbon sequestration – what is being captured and what is being lost through greenhouse gas emissions.”
Many times, talk of cover crops or regenerative agriculture in the U.S. refers to areas with 40 to 50 inches of rain per year. This amount of rain is not what typically occurs in Texas and Oklahoma, one of the largest cotton and livestock production regions in the nation.
Lewis notes that little research has been conducted to understand how regenerative agricultural practices perform when incorporated into a larger production system and under the varying precipitation of semi-arid regions.
“We want this to be as real as possible,” Lewis said. “There’s just so much information that is not suited for our regions. This project is going to result in the optimization of practices for semi-arid regions that will result in profitable and sustainable practices.”
The team’s approach will look at not just one practice in isolation but the entire agricultural production system that includes cover crops, crop rotations, grazing and other management techniques that can work on a farm-by-farm situation.
“Long-term, region-specific research, especially in semi-arid regions, is needed to better understand regenerative practices and the effects on soil health and water use in cotton agroecosystems,” Lewis said.
To read the full article with links to the project narrative and other background information go to the AgriLife Today website here: https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/2021/10/06/regenerative-agriculture-evaluation-gets-underway-in-texas-and-oklahoma/