An Iowa State University-led regional project has begun its second year of research examining long-term impacts of climate on Midwestern corn crops.

“The Midwest’s rich natural resources make it one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world,” said Lois Wright Morton, professor of sociology and project director. “That’s why scientists and policymakers place great importance on ensuring the resilience of corn-based cropping systems to meet global market needs and sustain U.S. agricultural production in the face of future climate uncertainties.”

“Our research team seeks to address the societal challenge of better managing these cropping systems for their carbon, nitrogen and water footprints under changing long-term weather conditions,” Morton said.

The Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project is funded by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Morton and project manager Lori Abendroth, also housed in ISU’s sociology department, coordinate an almost 150-member team across 10 land-grant universities and a USDA research unit in nine Midwestern states. Researchers include agronomists, agricultural engineers,environmental scientists, hydrologists, soil scientists, sociologists, watershed engineers and natural resource scientists, as well as extension educators and staff.

During its first year, the project established a research network of 26 field sites and a team of extension educators to work with more than 200 farmers. At the sites, researchers arecollecting data on carbon, nitrogen and water movement and monitor greenhouse gas emissions. The team will integrate field and climate data to create models and evaluate crop management practices, with a goal of better understanding the relationships among climate shifts and agriculture.

“Our team is addressing complex and unique challenges faced by agricultural producers and society as a whole,” said Abendroth. “We are excited by the capacity of our research, education, and extension findings to not only help others understand how changing weather patterns are affecting Midwest agriculture, but also ways to adapt through certain management practices and policies that increase sustainability while also meeting the demand for grain.”

Also in its first year, the project distributed a climate-focused survey to nearly 20,000 farmers to learn more about management practices, gain social and economic information and identify challenges they face.

Participating scientists have recruited 35 graduate students to work on the project, which aims to train a new generation of agricultural and climate scientists.

Besides Iowa State, the project’s partnering institutions are Lincoln University, Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, South Dakota State University, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University ofWisconsin and the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Columbus, Ohio.

More news and information on the project, including its first annual report, can be found on its Web site, http://www.sustainablecorn.org/