Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial

The Wisconsin Integrated Cropping System Trial (WICST) began in 1990 to address issues of sustainability associated with various farming systems. The 25 ha experiment is located on highly productive, prairie-derived Mollisols at the University of Wisconsin’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station in Columbia County, Wisconsin, USA. The main experiment compares six Midwestern agricultural production systems: Three of the systems are typical of cash grain enterprises and three are typical of forage-based dairy enterprises. A nested study consisting of three native perennial grass systems was established in 1999. The production systems vary in crop diversity and use of purchased inputs. They range from continuous corn to rotational grazing, and the performance criteria which are used to evaluate these systems include productivity, environmental impact, and profitability. Plot sizes are relatively large at WICST (0.3 ha) and all management is conducted with production scale agricultural equipment. The trial is set up so that every phase of each rotation is present with a field replicate (block) each year. The Arlington site is now heading into its 25th field season.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Institutional Website: Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial (WICST) Project

Contact: Gregg Sanford

WICST_aerialWICST Cropping System Treatments

WICST_corn (s)Continuous Corn (CS1):

This system represents a conventional, continuous corn rotation. Fertility is derived from applied synthetic N, P, and K, weed control is achieved via a combination of tillage and herbicides, and top yielding corn hybrids with advanced genetic traits are planted.

WICST_soybean (s)Corn – Soybean (CS2):

This system represents a corn – soybean rotation using minimum tillage. Fertility is derived from applied synthetic N, P, and K, and weed control is achieved via herbicides. Top yielding corn hybrids and soybean varieties with advanced genetic traits are planted. Soybeans are no-till drilled into corn stover, and corn is strip-till planted in soybean stubble.

WICST_wheat (s)Corn – Soybean – Wheat/Clover (CS3):

This system is managed according to the USDA’s National Organic Program Standards. Fertility is derived from biologically fixed N, composted poultry manure, and potassium sulfate. Weed control is achieved via mechanical means as well as by using cover crops. High yielding organically certified corn hybrids, and organically certified soybean and wheat varieties are planted.

Corn – Alfalfa – Alfalfa – Alfalfa (CS4):

This system is representative of a high input, high yielding dairy forage rotation. Fertility is derived primarily from the application of dairy manure, weed control is achieved via herbicides, and top yielding corn hybrids and alfalfa varieties with advanced genetic traits are planted. Typically two forage harvests occur during the alfalfa seeding year and between three and four during the production years of the alfalfa phase of the rotation.

Corn – Oats/alfalfa – Alfalfa (CS5):

This system is managed according to the USDA’s National Organic Program Standards. Fertility is derived from the application of dairy manure, weed control is achieved via tillage, and organically certified top yielding corn hybrids and organically certified leaf hopper resistant alfalfa varieties are planted. Typically two forage harvests occur during the alfalfa seeding year and between three and four during the production year of the alfalfa phase of the rotation.

heifers (s)Rotational Grazing (CS6):

This system is designed to represent a custom heifer operation. Heifers are brought on to pasture at the beginning of May and then returned to the UW’s herd at the end of the season. Managed grazing is used to maximize the productivity and health of both the heifers and pasture. Fertility is derived from biologically fixed N and manure as well as applied synthetic N, P, and K on an “as needed” basis. Red clover is seeded biennially or as needed to maintain a 35% legume stand in the cool season grass sward.

Switchgrass:

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) was established in 2007 to serve as a low diversity comparison to our native prairie plantings and to provide data on the production potential and environmental impacts of dedicated cellulosic bioenergy systems. The plots are seeded to a northern-upland ecotype (“Forestberg”) and receive a minimal amount of N fertilizer each season (56 kg N ha-1). These plots are unique in that they are subdivided into three different management categories: 1) biofuels – harvested once, post frost, 2) grazing – grazed once or twice per season and burned each spring to minimize non-native cool season grasses, and 3) control – burned each spring to minimize non-native cool season grasses but never harvested or grazed.

WICST_hay (s)Low Diversity Prairie:

This system typifies a standard CRP planting with 6 native species (two grasses, two legumes, and two forbs). This system was established in 1999 and is subdivided into three different management categories: 1) biofuels – harvested once, post frost, 2) grazing – grazed once or twice per season and burned each spring to minimize cool season grasses, and 3) control – burned each spring to minimize cool season grasses but never harvested or grazed.

grazing_the_prairie (s)High Diversity Prairie:

This system is designed to represent a native prairie community that might have existed pre-settlement in southern Wisconsin. Planted in 1999 the system initially included three grasses, four legumes, and 18 forbs. These plots are unique in that they are subdivided into three different management categories: 1) biofuels – harvested once, post frost, 2) grazing – grazed once or twice per season and burned each spring to minimize cool season grasses, and 3) control – burned each spring to minimize cool season grasses but never harvested or grazed.

WICST Diagram

WICST-based publications to date

  1. Baldock JO, Hedtcke JL, Posner JL, Hall JA (2014) Organic and Conventional Production Systems in the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial: III. Yield Trends. Agronomy Journal, 106, 1509–1522.
  2. Bernstein ER, Stoltenberg DE, Posner JL, Hedtcke JL (2014) Weed Community Dynamics and Suppression in Tilled and No-Tillage Transitional Organic Winter Rye–Soybean Systems. Weed Science, 62, 125–137.
  3. Sanford GR (2014) Perennial grasslands are essential for long term SOC storage in the Mollisols of the North Central USA. In. Soil Carbon. (eds Hartemink AE, McSweeney K) pp. 281-288. Springer.
  4. Sanford GR, Posner JL, Jackson RD, Kucharik CJ, Hedtcke JL, Lin T-L (2012) Soil carbon lost from Mollisols of the North Central U.S.A. with 20 years of agricultural best management practices. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 162, 68–76.
  5. Avila-Segura M, Barak P, Hedtcke JL, Posner JL (2011) Nutrient and alkalinity removal by corn grain, stover and cob harvest in Upper Midwest USA. Biomass and Bioenergy, 35, 1190–1195.
  6. Bernstein ER, Posner JL, Stoltenberg DE, Hedtcke JL (2011) Organically Managed No-Tillage Rye–Soybean Systems: Agronomic, Economic, and Environmental Assessment. Agronomy Journal, 103, 1169–1179.
  7. Hedtcke JL, Posner JL, Coblentz W, Hall J, Walgenbach RP, Davidson J (2011) Orchardgrass ley for improved manure management in Wisconsin: II. nutritive value and voluntary intake by dairy heifers. Agronomy Journal, 103, 1106–1114.
  8. Jokela W, Posner J, Hedtcke J, Balser T, Read H (2011) Midwest Cropping System Effects on Soil Properties and on a Soil Quality Index. Agronomy Journal, 103, 1552–1562.
  9. Hedtcke JL, Posner JL, Hall J a., Walgenbach RP, Baldock JO (2010) Orchardgrass Ley for Improved Manure Management in Wisconsin: I. Forage Yield, Environmental Impact, and Production Costs. Agronomy Journal, 102, 956–963.
  10. Simonsen J, Posner JL, Rosemeyer M, Baldock JO (2010) Endogeic and anecic earthworm abundance in six Midwestern cropping systems. Applied Soil Ecology, 44, 147–155.
  11. Chavas J-PP, Posner JL, Hedtcke JL (2009) Organic and Conventional Production Systems in the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial: II. Economic and Risk Analysis 1993–2006. Agronomy Journal, 101, 288–295.
  12. Sanford GR, Posner JL, Hadley GL (2009) Economics of hauling dairy slurry and its value in Wisconsin corn grain systems. Journal of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences, 3, 10.
  13. Sanford GR, Cook AR, Posner JL, Hedtcke JL, Hall JA, Baldock JO (2009) Linking Wisconsin Dairy and Grain Farms via Manure Transfer for Corn Production. Agronomy Journal, 101, 167–174.
  14. Posner JL, Baldock JO, Hedtcke JL (2008) Organic and conventional production systems in the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trials: I. Productivity 1990-2002. Agronomy Journal, 100, 253–260.
  15. Posner JL, Frank GG, Nordlund K V., Schuler RT (2008) A constant goal, changing tactics: The Krusenbaum dairy farm (1996–2005). Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 24, 8–18.
  16. Sanford GR, Posner JL, Schuler RT, Baldock JO (2008) Effect of dairy slurry application on soil compaction and corn (Zea mays L.) yield in Southern Wisconsin. Soil & Tillage Research, 100, 42–53.
  17. Cook AR, Posner JL, Baldock JO (2007) Effects of dairy manure and weed management on weed communities in corn on Wisconsin cash-grain farms. Weed Technology, 21, 389–395.
  18. Wander MM, Yun W, Goldstein W a., Aref S, Khan S a. (2007) Organic N and particulate organic matter fractions in organic and conventional farming systems with a history of manure application. Plant and Soil, 291, 311–321.
  19. Saam H, Mark Powell J, Jackson-Smith DB, Bland WL, Posner JL (2005) Use of animal density to estimate manure nutrient recycling ability of Wisconsin dairy farms. Agricultural Systems, 84, 343–357.
  20. Posner JL, Casler MD, Baldock JO (1995) The Wisconsin integrated cropping systems trial: Combining agroecology with production agronomy. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 10, 98–107.
  21. Stute JK, Posner JL (1995) Synchrony between legume nitrogen release and corn demand in the upper Midwest. Agronomy Journal, 87, 1063–1069.
  22. Stute JK, Posner JL (1995) Legume cover crops as a nitrogen-source for corn in an oat corn rotation. Journal of Production Agriculture, 8, 385–390.
  23. Stute JK, Posner JL (1993) Legume cover corp options for grain rotations in Wisconsin. Agronomy Journal, 85, 1128–1132.