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Long-term agricultural experiments inform the development of climate-smart agricultural practices

  • Author(s): Wolf, Kristina
  • Herrera, Israel
  • Tomich, Thomas P
  • Scow, Kate M
  • et al.
Abstract

California's Mediterranean agro-ecosystems are a major source of U.S. fruits and vegetables, and vulnerable to future extremes of precipitation and temperature brought on by climate change, including increased drought and flooding, and more intense and longer heat waves. To develop resilience to these threats, strategies are necessary for climate-smart management of soil and water. Long-term, large-scale, replicated ecological experiments provide unique testbeds for studying such questions. At the UC Davis Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility (RRSAF), the 100-year Century Experiment, initiated in 1992, is investigating the effects of multiple farming practices in a farm-scale replicated study of 10 row crop cropping systems. It includes different fertility management systems: organic, conventional and hybrid (conventional plus winter cover crop) systems; different crops: wheat, tomatoes, corn, alfalfa, cover crops and grasslands; and different irrigation systems: rainfed, flood irrigated and drip irrigated. We briefly describe and report on a selection of long-term experiments conducted at RRSAF investigating soil management and irrigation practices, which are an important focus for developing climate-smart strategies in Mediterranean systems. For example, long-term monitoring of soil carbon content revealed that most crop systems have experienced a small increase in soil carbon since 1993, and increases in organically managed plots were substantially higher. As RRSAF continues to build upon this rich dataset from one of a very few long-term row crop experiments in Mediterranean ecosystems, it provides a testbed for identifying climate-smart solutions for these agronomically important ecosystems.

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