About the Journal

Agricultural & Environmental Letters is a gold open access journal, publishing communications-length, broad-reaching, transformative, and timely commentaries and research letters on major scientific, policy, and economic issues that span the entire range of the agricultural and environmental sciences.

Featured Article

Sand in blue bucket
Camera illustration of Indicator of Reduction in Soils (IRIS) reduction dynamics

The authors used a rhizosphere camera to capture iron and manganese coating removal at high temporal resolution. This technology, which builds on an existing approach, can be used to evaluate real-time in situ redox measurements. Read more

Browse Articles

Open access

Agricultural extension and advisory services strategies during COVID‐19 lockdown

Core Ideas

  • COVID-19 changed how agricultural extension services are performed in developing countries.
  • Extension personnel used mobile phones, radio, and television to provide services.
  • Agricultural extension personnel encountered many challenges using these unconventional ways.
  • Telecommunication infrastructure needs to be developed in farming communities.
  • Extension personnel should complement traditional face-to-face with online activities.

Open access

The Partnerships for Data Innovations (PDI): Facilitating data stewardship and catalyzing research engagement in the digital age

Core Ideas

  • Profound changes are needed for research to seize upon digital age potential.
  • USDA-ARS established the Partnerships for Data Innovations (PDI) to facilitate data stewardship.
  • PDI provides scientists with state-of-the art tools to facilitate robust data management.
  • Moving beyond management to stewardship will help ensure data reuse and sharing for the common good.

Open access

Laboratory and greenhouse evaluation of four iron fertilizer sources

Abstract

Core Ideas

  • Soybean response to four iron fertilizers was compared in a greenhouse study.
  • Crop response was similar for FeHBED and a higher-quality FeEDDHA product.
  • A lower-quality FeEDDHA product and FeEDDHSA gave lesser crop response.
  • The relative performance of the four sources was predicted by a simple soil incubation test.

Open access

The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework: Opportunities and challenges in the eastern United States

Abstract

Core Ideas

  • The Agriculture Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) is a spatial tool not yet well tested in the eastern USA.
  • Parts of the toolbox work quite well in eastern U.S. landscapes.
  • Other parts of the toolbox leave questions for application and interpretation.

Open access

Benefits of alfalfa interseeding include reduced residual soil nitrate following corn production

Core Ideas

  •  Interseeding alfalfa may reduce environmental impacts of corn silage production.
  •  Residual soil nitrate after corn harvest was reduced by interseeded alfalfa at both locations.
  •  Greater N fertilizer rates increased soil nitrate during and after corn production.

more >
Open access

Should Soil Testing Services Measure Soil Biological Activity?

Abstract

Core Ideas

  • Soil biological activity is a key indicator for productivity and environmental quality.
  • The flush of CO2 possesses many qualities of a robust soil test.
  • Field calibration is underway to relate the flush of CO2 to nitrogen availability.

Health of agricultural soils depends largely on conservation management to promote soil organic matter accumulation. Total soil organic matter changes slowly, but active fractions are more dynamic. A key indicator of healthy soil is potential biological activity, which could be measured rapidly with soil testing services via the flush of CO2 during 1 to 3 d following rewetting of dried soil. The flush of CO2 is related to soil microbial biomass C and has repeatedly been shown strongly related to net N mineralization during standard aerobic incubations. New research is documenting the close association with plant N uptake in semicontrolled greenhouse conditions (r2 = 0.77, n = 36). Field calibrations are underway to relate the flush of CO2 to the need for in-season N requirement in a variety of crops. An index of soil biological activity can and should be determined to help predict soil health and soil N availability.

Open access

Linking Soil Phosphorus to Dissolved Phosphorus Losses in the Midwest

Abstract

Core Ideas

  • Soil test phosphorus remains an important factor in studying dissolved reactive P loss.
  • Identifying higher risk fields with STP could inform future management practices to reduce DRP loss.
  • STP was linearly related to DRP concentration loads in tile-drained fields.
  • Monitoring STP in addition to implementing other BMPs should be considered to decrease DRP loss.

Harmful and nuisance algal blooms resulting from excess phosphorus (P) have placed agriculture in the spotlight of the water quality debate. Sixty-eight site years of P loading data (combined surface runoff and tile flow) from 36 fields in Ohio were used to see if a soil test P (STP) concentration could be identified that allowed P application while still meeting recommended loss thresholds. Regression analysis revealed that P application to soils with STP concentration in the “critical level” range would result in P losses above the recommended Annex 4 thresholds. In addition, fertilizer application increased the risk of dissolved reactive P (DRP) loss as compared to years in which fertilizer was not applied. We determined that STP was a good screening method to identify fields that are at risk for greater P loss, but STP alone was not a good predictor of DRP loss, suggesting that a more holistic approach that includes upland management, edge-of-field practices, and in-stream approaches will be required to decrease DRP loading.

Open access

Ecosystem Services and Disservices Are Bundled in Simple and Diverse Cover Cropping Systems

Abstract

Core Ideas

  • Cover crop monocultures and mixtures support multiple ecosystem services.
  • Service interactions can lead to bundling, or co-occurrence, of certain services.
  • Service interactions also create trade-offs among services and disservices.
  • Cover crop mixtures can mitigate disservices to increase multifunctionality.

Agroecosystems are increasingly expected to provide multiple ecosystem services. We tested whether and how cover crop selection (identity and number of species) affects provisioning of multiple services (multifunctionality). In a 3-yr study of 10 cover crop treatments and eight ecosystem services, certain services consistently co-occurred. One such service “bundle” included cover crop biomass production, weed suppression, and nitrogen retention. Another set of bundled services included cash crop production, nitrogen supply, and profitability. We also identified trade-offs: as some services increased, other disservices arose, limiting multifunctionality. However, functionally diverse mixtures ameliorated disservices associated with certain monocultures, thereby increasing cover crop multifunctionality.

Open access

Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments: Limitations and Compatibility with Integrated Pest Management

Abstract

Core Ideas

  • Recent educational offerings incompletely addressed neonicotinoid seed coatings.
  • These insecticidal coatings are common on corn, soybean, and other crop seeds.
  • Current use patterns violate core principles of integrated pest management.
  • We present an overview of these products, focusing on some key limitations.
  • Deploying neonicotinoids more judiciously will reduce their negative side effects.

Educational materials guiding the use of pesticides are often sponsored or co-created by pesticide manufacturers, raising potential conflicts of interest. For example, early in 2017, two registrant-sponsored webinars from the American Society of Agronomy addressed benefits of neonicotinoid seed coatings, which are routinely applied to seeds of many field crops. While these products can protect yield in certain situations, they also carry significant limitations; unfortunately, these presentations avoided such downsides. Here, we provide an overview of key limitations of neonicotinoid seed treatments (NST). First, we address Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and how current use of NST violates its key principles and ignores lessons learned. Second, we address inconsistent yield responses, resistance concerns, and nontarget effects. Third, we return to IPM to discuss how this proven framework can be used to more effectively guide and steward NST to avoid mounting reports of negative side effects.

Open access

Effect of Multispecies Cover Crop Mixture on Soil Properties and Crop Yield

Abstract

Core Ideas

  • After 3 yr, soybean yield was higher from multispecies than from single- and double-species cover cropping.
  • Multispecies cover cropping had higher soil water and inorganic N content than less-diverse treatments.
  • Soil organic C was unaffected by cover crop species diversity.
  • Several years of cover cropping are needed to achieve ecosystem benefits.

Multispecies cover cropping has become popular in recent years because of the multiple ecosystem benefits compared with single- or double- species cover cropping. However, scientific studies on the effects of multispecies cover cropping—especially in the southern United States—are limited. A field study was initiated in 2013 at the University of Tennessee's Research and Education Center in Milan, TN, to assess the agronomic and soil responses from single-, double-, and multispecies cover cropping in corn (Zea mays L.)–soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] systems. After 3 yr, we found that a multispecies mixture of legumes, grasses, and Brassica spp. significantly increased soybean yield, gravimetric soil water content, and soil inorganic nitrogen as compared to the less-diverse treatments and a no-cover control. However, after 3 yr, cover cropping did not increase soil organic carbon. Although multispecies cover cropping exhibited a positive effect on yield and some soil properties after 3 yr, we plan to continue collecting multiple years of data from this field trial.

Latest news