Delineation of an Ecologically Based Structure of Agricultural Production in the Corn Belt

Gage, S.H., M. Colunga-Garcia, F. Pierce, and D. Long

Presented at the All Scientist Meeting (1998-07-21 to 1998-07-22 )

A thorough analysis of the spatial and temporal dynamics of crop productivity in an eco-regional context at various hierarchical levels may reveal the ecologically based structure of an agricultural production system. This would facilitate the development of ecologically based management systems for agriculture. Our long-term goal will be to assess the long-term viability of agricultural systems at a regional scale by reducing the impact of agricultural practices on natural systems. We expect that this analysis will set the stage to begin the development of a model to forecast regional crop productivity in the next century. This model would integrate physical, ecological, socio-economic, and management systems.Our first step will be to evaluate the spatial scale at which the physical system (climate and geomorphology) influence or determine crop productivity patterns in the North Central Region. Crop yield characterization will be conducted at different spatial scales over a period of 20 years. We will then assess the effect of climatic fluctuations on crop yield at each scale within an eco-regional hierarchy. In addition we will assess which regional scheme and which scale best explains patterns of crop yield in the North Central Region. Using analytical spatial technologies, we will generate spatial gradients of crop yields that will be compared against the different scales of ecoregion classification schemes. Major outcomes of this project will be a) the development of procedures and protocols for an ecoregion-based geospatial analysis of agricultural system performance, b) a scale analysis of crop productivity in the Corn Belt over a 25 year period, under agrobased and ecobased regions and c) an assessment of how ecobased regions can facilitate the development of ecologically based agricultural systems in the Corn Belt.Return to Contents

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