Research Overview

How We Work

Our Research Approach

The LTAR network combines strategic research projects with common measurements on multiple agroecosystems (croplands, rangelands, and pasturelands) and develops new technologies to address local and national challenges and opportunities. In addition, the LTAR network provides common measurements and data streams that complement other federally-funded national networks, such as the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network. 

The LTAR network employs the use of working groups to facilitate operations. These groups consist of LTAR scientists from multiple sites working together on targeted research topics or goals. Additionally, service-oriented working groups address network-wide needs such as communications and data management. Together, these working groups allow LTAR scientists to conduct multidisciplinary, cross-site research.

The LTAR network features four linked approaches:

1. Coordinated Agroecosystem Research

Coordinating our research enables us to improve our understanding of how agroecosystems function at the field, regional, and national scales. Every network site has experiments with common goals and methods aiming to increase agricultural productivity and profitability while reducing negative environmental impacts, enhancing ecosystem services from agricultural landscapes, and improving opportunities for rural communities. Coordinated research allows scientists to develop and to test innovations across the United States, including new genetics, new production techniques, and sensor infrastructure.

2. Information Management

The LTAR network is committed to making its data open to researchers and the public. LTAR data managers and scientists are developing new approaches to organize and to integrate data across the LTAR network and partner sites. New data portals and visualization tools will accelerate scientific discoveries and bring real-time management technologies to producers’ hand-held electronic devices.

3. New Management Technologies and Tools

Producers, landowners, policymakers, and the public want to make informed decisions about agricultural systems based on productivity, ecosystem services, off-site impacts, market conditions, rural prosperity, and future climate. Linking field monitoring, remote sensing, computer models, and web and mobile technologies provides scientists and producers with the tools to evaluate the multiple effects of agronomic practices and to manage the tradeoffs between production and nonproduction services. Site-specific decision support tools can also enhance adaptive management, improve conservation investments, and reduce producer overhead costs.

4. Agricultural Innovation Partnerships 

Effective engagement with producers, industry, and other stakeholders increases the utility and adoption of information and technologies. The LTAR network includes social scientists in collaborative experiments to understand stakeholder needs and to incorporate new science information in practices and technologies that are adopted by producers and accepted by the public. Collaborations with industry promote the refinement and dissemination of technologies and expand markets for sustainably-produced agricultural products.



The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Long-Term Agroecosystem Research network consists of 18 Federal and university agricultural research sites with an average of over 50 years of history. The goal of this research network is to ensure sustained crop and livestock production and ecosystem services from agroecosystems, and to forecast and verify the effects of environmental trends, public policies, and emerging technologies.