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Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research Site

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The KBS LTER Project: Long-Term Ecological Research in Row-Crop Agriculture  (Michigan State University)

Research Focus

For more than 20 years, scientists at the Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research Program (KBS LTER) have investigated how agricultural lands work. They study the ecology of Midwest cropping systems and how they interact with the environment. They examine relationships: how crops grown in different ways, interacting with soil, water, air, microbes, insects and even wildlife.

By better understanding these complex relationships over time, the KBS LTER is able to generate and disseminate science-based information about how to make farming both good for the environment and profitable for farmers. This information addresses how agronomic managers can better utilize biological resources in cropping systems to control pests, provide nitrogen and build soil fertility.

The KBS LTER program's main research areas include agronomy, microbial ecology, plant dynamics, insect dynamics, biogeochemistry, regionalization, ecosystem services and biofuels.

More than 100 scientists conduct research on the KBS LTER site, from Michigan State University and from around the world. 

Research Outcomes

Agriculture and Climate Change: KBS researchers discovered and quantified how different crop management practices can interact to provide new opportunities for greenhouse gas mitigation by agriculture. These discoveries inform agricultural greenhouse gas policies worldwide.

Diverse Landscapes Curtail Crop Pests: Agricultural researchers traditionally focus their studies at the field level. By casting a wider net, KBS scientists have discovered how plant diversity in surrounding landscapes enhances habitat for predators of agricultural pests. Those predators can reduce pesticide use and avert yield loss worth millions of dollars annually.

Soil Microbes: Scientists found that soil microbial diversity is not much affected by land management, except for those groups of microbes involved in specific metabolic processes such as the production and consumption of the important greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxides.

Nitrogen Flow: Scientists traced the flow of nitrogen through agricultural landscapes and revealed how management can be tailored to minimize nitrogen pollution to ground water. They documented the importance of spring-fed wetlands and headwater streams in removing nitrogen.

No-till Management: Researchers collected samples to depths of three feet from plots that had been under different types of farm management for 12 years and discovered that surface soil carbon amounts were greater under no-till management compared to the traditional treatment. 

Learn more about KBLTER research outcomes.

Education & Outreach

KBS places an emphasis on sharing its work with the broader public. Enhancing Linkages between Mathematics and Ecology is a summer science program for graduate and undergraduate students at KBS. The program offers students the opportunity to learn how to apply mathematical and statistical tools to questions in ecology and evolution. The Research Experience for Undergraduates program at KBS involves undergraduates in full-time research with a faculty member.

The KBS K-12 Partnership is a joint effort among KBS scientists, MSU College of Education faculty, and science teachers and administrators in 11 rural school districts in southwest Michigan. The partnership provides teachers in-depth exposure to research topics in environmental science and training to teach inquiry-based science at the elementary and secondary levels. Elements of the program include school-year workshops, a summer science institute and the placement of advanced KBS graduate students in classrooms of local districts.

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Images (1 of )

  • farmhouse and silo
  • snow-covered wires foreground; wintry landscape background
  • researcher collecting data, barely visible through reeds
Soybean field and farmstead near the KBS LTER
GP Robertson, Michigan State University
An automated greenhouse gas sampling system on the GLBRC / KBS LTER biofuels experiment collects samples throughout the year.
J. E. Doll, Michigan State University
Field technician AJ Ozanich collects greenhouse gas samples in a Miscanthus plot, part of the KBS LTER biofuels research program.
K.Stepnitz, Michigan State University