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Creators/Authors contains: "Socolar, Yvonne"

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  1. Abstract

    Over 70% of the 62 million hectares of cropland in the Midwestern United States is grown in corn-based rotations. These crop rotations are caught in a century-long simplification trend despite robust evidence demonstrating yield and soil benefits from diversified rotations. Our ability to explore and explain this trend will come in part from observing the biophysical and policy influences on farmers’ crop choices at one key level of management: the field. Yet field-level crop rotation patterns remain largely unstudied at regional scales and will be essential for understanding how national agricultural policy manifests locally and interacts with biophysical phenomena to erode—or bolster—soil and environmental health, agricultural resilience, and farmers’ livelihoods. We developed a novel indicator of crop rotational complexity and applied it to 1.5 million fields across the US Midwest. We used bootstrapped linear mixed models to regress field-level rotational complexity against biophysical (land capability, precipitation) and policy-driven (distance to the nearest biofuel plant and grain elevator) factors. After accounting for spatial autocorrelation, there were statistically clear negative relationships between rotational complexity and biophysical factors (land capability and precipitation during the growing season), indicating decreased rotation in prime growing areas. A positive relationship between rotational complexity and distance to the nearest biofuel plant suggests policy-based, as well as biophysical, constraints on regional rotations. This novel RCI is a promising tool for future fine-scale rotational analysis and demonstrates that the United States’ most fertile soils are the most prone to degradation, with recent policy choices further exacerbating this trend.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Humanity faces a triple threat of climate change, biodiversity loss, and global food insecurity. In response, increasing the general adaptive capacity of farming systems is essential. We identify two divergent strategies for building adaptive capacity. Simplifying processes seek to narrowly maximize production by shifting the basis of agricultural production toward centralized control of socially and ecologically homogenized systems. Diversifying processes cultivate social-ecological complexity in order to provide multiple ecosystem services, maintain management flexibility, and promote coordinated adaptation across levels. Through five primarily United States focused cases of distinct agricultural challenges—foodborne pathogens, drought, marginal lands, labor availability, and land access and tenure—we compare simplifying and diversifying responses to assess how these pathways differentially enhance or degrade the adaptive capacity of farming systems in the context of the triple threat. These cases show that diversifying processes can weave a form of broad and nimble adaptive capacity that is fundamentally distinct from the narrow and brittle adaptive capacity produced through simplification. We find that while there are structural limitations and tradeoffs to diversifying processes, adaptive capacity can be facilitated by empowering people and enhancing ecosystem functionality to proactively distribute resources and knowledge where needed and to nimbly respond to changing circumstances. Our cases suggest that, in order to garner the most adaptive benefits from diversification, farming systems should balance the pursuit of multiple goals, which in turn requires an inclusive process for active dialogue and negotiation among diverse perspectives. Instead of locking farming systems into pernicious cycles that reproduce social and ecological externalities, diversification processes can enable nimble responses to a broad spectrum of possible stressors and shocks, while also promoting social equity and ecological sustainability. 
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  3. Summary

    Water and nutrient acquisition are key drivers of plant health and ecosystem function. These factors impact plant physiology directly as well as indirectly through soil‐ and root‐associated microbial responses, but how they in turn affect aboveground plant–microbe interactions are not known.

    Through experimental manipulations in the field and growth chamber, we examine the interacting effects of water stress, soil fertility, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on bacterial and fungal communities of the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) phyllosphere.

    Both water stress and mycorrhizal disruption reduced leaf bacterial richness, homogenized bacterial community composition among plants, and reduced the relative abundance of dominant fungal taxa. We observed striking parallelism in the individual microbial taxa in the phyllosphere affected by irrigation and mycorrhizal associations.

    Our results show that soil conditions and belowground interactions can shape aboveground microbial communities, with important potential implications for plant health and sustainable agriculture.

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