Iowa State University will lead a 5-year, federally funded study into corn production and climate change.

The project's goal is to find out how various cropping methods affect greenhouse gas emissions or aid farmers in adapting to climate change and to evaluate farmers' willingness to adopt new cropping systems.

Lois Wright Morton, a rural sociologist associated with Iowa State's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, will lead a team of researchers from 10 universities in nine Midwest states and two U.S. Agriculture Department research stations in Ohio.

The team will include agronomists, plant and soil scientists, greenhouse gas specialists, economists, ecologists, agricultural engineers and sociologists. Twenty of the researchers will be from Iowa State.

Iowa State University will be serving as the lead investigator. Collaborators include Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin, Purdue University, the University of Missouri, Lincoln University of Missouri, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State University and USDA facilities in Columbus and Coshocton, Ohio.

Ohio Sate University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) has a $3 million share in the grant. The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), OSU Extension, and the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) -- all part of CFAES -- will be involved in various research and outreach components of the project. The grant was announced Feb. 18 in Washington D.C.

The world's longest continuously maintained no-tillage experiment, the Triplett-Van Doren no-till plots in Wooster, Hoytville and South Charleston will play a key role in evaluating the impact of crop rotation (continuous corn and corn/soybean) and tillage on greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, carbon dioxide and nitric/nitrous oxide, said Robert Mullen, OARDC and OSU Extension soil fertility and nutrient management specialist.

"Additionally, we will be involved in evaluating the impact of cover crops in corn rotations on nitrogen fertilization requirements," Mullen added. "We will be using sensor-based approaches (developed at the University of Missouri and Ohio State) to make nitrogen-rate decisions within that cropping system. We will also be heavily involved in the development of Extension materials delineating the findings of our research activity."

The initiative brings together 42 scientists from nine land-grant universities and two USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) institutions in eight states in the country's north-central region -- which produces 8 billion bushels of corn, or 64 percent of the annual harvest in the United States.

Researchers will begin collecting data on carbon, nitrogen and water movement this spring from 21 research sites in eight states. Special equipment will be used to monitor greenhouse gas emissions at many of the sites. The team will integrate field and climate data to create models and evaluate crop management practices.

The goal is to create a database of plot, field, farm and watershed data that can be combined with climate data to develop scenarios based on different practices.

Farmers in the region will also be involved in the project, having the opportunity to participate in on-farm research and evaluate research models. Additionally, training will be offered for teachers and the next generation of scientists, in order to better understand the relationships among climate shifts and agriculture.

"This is the first such effort to collect science-based data using identical methodologies from one end of the Corn Belt (Iowa) to the other (Ohio)," said Richard Moore, assistant director of SENR on OARDC's Wooster campus and one of the researchers on the grant.

"Of particular note is the fact that OSU and the USDA-ARS center in Coshoston, Ohio (the North Appalachian Experimental Watershed, which is also involved in the project), have each maintained continuous no-till corn plots since 1962, making this long-term research possible."