Kellogg Biological Station

KBS Background

The Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) is located in southwest Michigan in the eastern portion of the U.S. cornbelt, 50 km east of Lake Michigan in the SW corner of the state. KBS is 1600 ha of cropping systems, successional communities, and small lakes. Surrounding KBS is a diverse, rural-to-semirural landscape typical of the U.S. Great Lakes and upper Midwest regions. The diversity of land use, soil and vegetation types, and aquatic habitats within a 50-km radius of the Station is high. Soils in the area developed on glacial till, and include well- and poorly-drained alfisols, mollisols, and entisols. Most regional soils are sandy loam and silty clay loam of moderate fertility; principal KBS soils are Typic Hapludalfs developed under forest vegetation.

Land use around KBS ranges from urban to rural; vegetation ranges from cultivated and early successional old fields to older growth oak-hickory and beech-maple forests; and aquatic habitats include more than 200 bodies of water of different morphometries, alkalinities, and degrees of eutrophication. Cropping systems in the area are typical of the U.S. cornbelt and Great Lakes region— mainly corn – soybean rotations with wheat of varying importance, and alfalfa an important forage crop. KBS yields are typical of non-irrigated yields elsewhere in the North Central Region.


Download KBS Climate Syntheses PDF

Proposed KBS LTAR experimental sites

The LTAR project land-base will cover ~100 ha (~250 acres); 26 ha (63 acres) are reserved for the small plot portion of the Common Experiment plus ancillary experiments and 71 ha (176 acres) for the field-scale portion (10 fields each at least 5 ha). Fields in the proposed project land base are currently in a transition period designed to homogenize soils for future treatment assignments. A first soybean year will be followed by corn, both with full tillage; this rotation will continue until the experiment begins. No cover crops or manure will be used during the transition period. All fields have been grid soil sampled and will receive lime, P and K as needed to normalize pre-treatment fertility. Some proposed management details for BAU and ASP systems include:

Business as Usual (BAU) – Conventional row-crop agriculture

  • Corn-soybean rotation
  • Conventional (conservation) tillage (chisel plow)
  • Conventional levels of fertilizers and pesticides (commercial crop advisor)
  • Transgenic varieties of corn and soybean
  • No cover crops, manure or irrigation

Aspirational (ASP) – Reduced input, biologically based, row-crop agriculture

  • Corn-soybean-winter wheat (legume cover crops before soybean and corn)
  • No-till
  • Variable rate technology (seeds, herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers )
  • Reduced (~1/3 BAU) N fertilizer input
  • Transgenic crop varieties
  • Nearby native vegetation to provide refugia for arthropod predators
  • No manure or irrigation

Proposed KBS LTAR research/management priorities

  • Production
  • Food, fiber, and biofuel
  • Soil and water protection
  • Soil fertility (SOM) and Clean water (nitrogen, pesticides)
  • Climate regulation
  • Greenhouse gas mitigation (N2O, CH4 and soil C)
  • Pollination and Pest regulation
  • Biocontrol (arthropod predators)
  • Economic evaluation
  • Farmer willingness, policy designs
  • Biodiversity

Potential outcomes (i.e., advantages of ASP adoption)

  • Reduction of nutrient losses to waterways and atmosphere
  • Reduced GHG emissions; mitigation
  • Increased NUE and lowered N losses
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Reduced erosion and sediment loss.

LTAR Linkages

Much of the work conducted by the KBS LTAR will be tightly coupled to the entire LTAR network.  All KBS LTAR research results and methods will be shared with the network to explore additional collaborations and a wider distribution of the research.  The experiment comparing the most common regional practices (BAU and ASP) will be carried out at all of the LTAR locations studying row crops.  Comparisons will be made across all of the LTAR locations especially with respect to the ecosystem services identified above.  These assessments will be used to make cross location comparisons for the U.S.

USDA Climate Hub

Midwest Hub

Site Name

Kellogg Biological Station




Southwest Michigan



Area (km2)



Phil Robertson, Brook Wilke, Julie Doll, Nick Haddad, and Steve Hamilton