Eastern Corn Belt

Who Operates and Manages this LTAR Site?

The Soil Drainage Research Unit (SDRU), and The National Soil Erosion Research Lab of USDA-ARS.


The primary resource concerns in the Eastern Corn Belt node are soil erosion and nutrient transport. The vast majority of land is in cash grain agriculture with an emphasis on corn and soybean production, while wheat represents approximately 10% of the agricultural acres. Animal agriculture (dairy, beef, swine, and poultry) is important but highly concentrated in certain areas. Crop response to subsurface drainage has escalated efforts to increase the intensity of subsurface drainage, especially in the Western Lake Erie Basin.  Management of subsurface drainage water is a practice gaining momentum as a best management practice. There is also a strong movement to promote soil and stream health via cover crops, two stage ditches, and 4R nutrient stewardship.




The Eastern Cornbelt LTAR sees an average annual temperature of 7 to 10 ˚C, with an average high of X˚C in July and an average low of X˚ C in January.  The average annual rainfall is 760-915 mm.

Download ECB Climate Syntheses PDF


  • One Eddy flux covariance system
  • LTAR weather station
  • Multiple sampling flumes
  • Instrumented unit source watersheds:  V-notch weirs, tipping bucket rain gauges, automated water samplers
  • Chemistry labs
  • Fixed wing RTK UAV

Classification System

Farm Resource Regions: Heartland
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUC-2): Region 4 (Great Lakes) and 5 (Ohio)
National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON):  D7 – Appalachians / Cumberland Plateau
NRCS Major Land: Location of MLRA 99-Erie/Huron Lake Plain, and MLRA 111B-Indiana and Ohio Till Plain, Northeastern Part

LTAR Research Emphases

  • Carbon, water, and energy measurements with flux towers
  • Cropping system, hydrologic and erosion modelling
  • Climate downscaling, and climate impacts assessment, and mitigation strategies
  • Remote sensing of ET, drought, and vegetation
  • Soil biology and ecology

Muti-site Initiatives

  • Sustainable intensification review (Kleinman)
  • Water balance/budgets (Baffaut)
  • Farm modeling – IFSM (Kleinman)
  • Manureshed (Spiegel)
  • Soils and soil health groups (Moorman)

Recent Publications

King, K.W., M.R. Williams, D.R. Smith, G.A. LaBarge, J.M. Reutter, E.W. Duncan, L.A. Pease. 2018. Addressing agricultural phosphorus loss in artificially drained landscapes with 4R nutrient management practices. J. of Soil Water Conservation. doi:10.2489/jswc.73.1.35

Williams, M.R., King, K.W., Duncan, E.W., Pease, L.A., Penn, C.J. 2018. Fertilizer placement and tillage effects on phosphorus leaching in fine-textured soils. Soil and Tillage Research. 178:130-138.

Pease  L.A., K.W. King, M.R. Williams, G.A. LaBarge, E.W. Duncan, N.R. Fausey. 2018. Phosphorus export from artificially drained fields across the Eastern Corn Belt. Journal of Great Lakes Research.

King, K.W., M.R. Williams, L.T. Johnson, D.R. Smith, G.A. LaBarge, and N.R. Fausey. 2017. Phosphorus Availability in Western Lake Erie Basin Drainage Waters: Legacy Evidence across Spatial Scales. Journal of Environmental Quality 46: 466-469.

Duncan, E.W., K.W. King, M.R. Williams, G. LaBarge, L.A. Pease, D.R. Smith, N.R. Fausey. 2017. Linking soil phosphorus to dissolved phosphorus losses in the Midwest.Agriculture & Environmental Letters. doi:10.2134/ael2017.02.0004

Williams, M.R., K.W. King, D.B. Baker, L.T. Johnson, D.R. Smith, and N.R. Fausey. 2016. Hydrologic and biogeochemical controls on phosphorus export from Western Lake Erie tributaries. Journal of Great Lakes Research 42: 1403-1411.

Major Accomplishments


Other Networks (where data is shared)

  • CEAP

USDA Climate Hub

Midwest Hub

Site Name

Eastern Corn Belt



Columbus, OH
Tiffin, OH
West Lafayette, IN



Area (km2)

Soil Drainage Research Unit, Hoytville and Edy Flux site:
West Lafayette (Edy flux site) :
Heidelberg University (Maumee Watershed):  


Kevin King (LD, RL), Chi-Hua Huang (RL), Laura Johnson (Heidelberg University)




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.