In an ever-changing climate, the need for remediation management practices has never been greater. Flooding has increased in the US Midwest as the frequency of excessive precipitation events pose a risk to agricultural production and food security. Specifically, prolonged floods can reduce corn yield and alter soil biological health. The extent to which flooding adversely affects corn production in the US Midwest is widely overlooked. This USDA funded project led by PI Alex J. Lindsey and Co-PI Christine Sprunger at The Ohio State University, begins to ask such questions about conventional corn production and overall system resilience while under flood stress. Dr. Sprunger’s research team will focus on exploring how flood stress impacts rhizosphere dynamics and soil ecology. In particular, excess water in soil is known to create an anoxic environment which can lead to anaerobic conditions for soil microbiota. However, it is unclear how different parts of the soil food web may be impacted by flooding events. Additionally, anaerobic conditions inhibits plant growth by affecting respiration in plant roots and could impact overall soil health conditions.
There are three experimental trials associated with this project. The first trial will examine how varying sources of Nitrogen fertilizers can impact corn yield, nutrient use efficiency and rhizosphere biology in flooded conditions. The second part examines whether applying N fertilizer before, after or both before and after the flood can impact corn yield, nutrient use efficiency and rhizosphere biology. The third part examines if planting cover crops prior to corn reduces flooding impacts during the growing season. Two field sites were selected in Northwestern and Northeastern Ohio for geographical variability and to better represent the US Midwest as a whole. Flooding events are simulated by irrigation systems to better control and distribute the water for the flood. This project began in May of 2021 and will run through 2024 as a multi-year study to incorporate variability between years.