Agronomic research focuses on the management of cropping systems, grazing, nutrients, tillage and other activities related to production of crops such as corn, soybean, sugar beets, alfalfa, small grains, wild rice, potatoes and other vegetables. Large-plot demonstrations enable crop producers to see and apply the results for themselves.
Irrigation allows for research across a broader range of environments, enabling producers of traditional and specialty crops to understand the production options available.
Across the state and incorporatind the work of graduate students and faculty, the "Forever Green" project is exploring whether new perennial crops can be planted in the off-seasons of tradtional crop fields, creating benefits for the environment-water conservation, soil health andwaterlife habitat-as well as an economic benefit for producers who would harvest two crops from the same field.
ROC researchers work in collaboration with faculty and students from the St. Paul campus, as well as industry partners. Through field days, seminars and open houses, research from the ROCs is shared with local communities and the scientific community.
Undergraduate and graduate students are an important component of in-field research at all of the centers.
Research and Outreach Centers collaborate with faculty from a broad range of disciplines, such as plant pathology, entomology and economics, in research that supports traditional cropping systems. Integrating applied field research, yield, profitability and sustainability of a wide range of annual crops, including corn, soybeans and small grains is the foundation of cropping systems research for Minnesota.
Precision agriculture uses the latest technology and techniques to monitor crop conditions and alert producers of a problem before it becomes widespread.
The centers’ research is aimed at helping producers make strategic pest- and weed-management decisions that will be both profitable and sustainable. Scientists work to improve effectiveness and minimize the number of pesticide applications, and to minimize pest and weed resistance to pesticides and transgenic crops. Most importantly, the ROCs develop and evaluate all components of integrated pest management within the framework of economics that ensure grower success.
Soybean aphids cause an estimated $200 million in damages to Minnesota soybean fields each year. Scientists are testing biological control methods such as the introduction of stingless wasps that eat the aphids on soybean leaves.
Nutrient management research is focused on nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, sulfur and zinc management strategies. These research findings profoundly affect how Minnesota producers manage and use nutrients. Research helps scientists develop diagnostic tests and refine university nutrient management guidelines.
Soil management research involves analyzing the relationship between tillage and soil erosion, sediment delivery to rivers and profitability to Midwest cropping systems. More than 150 site-years of long-term tillage research have been conducted to document the effects of crop rotations on Minnesota soils.
Grazing management research focuses on extending the grazing season to minimize winter feeding costs, maximize forage production, identify additional species useful for grazing and evaluate species mixtures suitable for intensive rotational grazing.
Wild rice research is focused on addressing agronomic challenges related to the continued strength and sustainability of the cultivated wild rice industry. Breeding for improved resistance to seed shattering, stem and leaf disease, and other key agronomic traits, aids in improved cultivation to help meet product demand. Soil fertility research is also crucial to meeting these challenges through increased understanding of nitrogen use efficiency in the crop, promoting higher yields with minimal fertilizer loss.
Scientists are working to improve seed size and investigating the nutritional qualities of commercially grown wild rice.
Biomass cropping systems are studied at plot and field scales. Field-scale research on both woody and herbaceous biomass crops focuses on maximizing productivity and ecosystem services in diverse cropping systems. Scientists are evaluating fertility, harvest timing and plant density to develop strategies that will help Minnesota successfully establish a sustainable woody biomass industry. At the same time, a range of native herbaceous perennial crops is being evaluated and bred for enhanced productivity and quality traits.