The Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) lies in the northern portion of the Corn Belt in southwest Michigan, within the USDA Midwest Climate Hub region. KBS has a rich history of agroecological research, dating back to the formation of the Kellogg research farm in 1929. Land preparation and initial research activities for the KBS LTAR began in 2016 and include 121 ha (~300 acres) of land dedicated to the LTAR Croplands Common Experiment. Additional land is used for complementary experiments to evaluate agronomic innovations and agroecological questions.
The soils of KBS developed on glacial deposits. The KBS climate is humid with warm summers and cold winters. The growing season is variable but usually in the range of 160–180 days, constrained by spring and autumn frosts. Historic mean annual temperature at KBS (1950–2015) is 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit). Mean maximum temperature is highest in June (29 C/85 F). Mean minimum temperature is lowest in January (-8/18 F). Long-term average precipitation is 94 centimeters (37 inches), with about half falling as snow. Since 1950, precipitation has increased by around 10–20% in Michigan.
Native vegetation around KBS was deciduous forest with some oak savanna and prairie. Now, agricultural landscapes in the region often are mosaics of cropland, old fields, successional forest, and lakes and wetlands. Common cropping systems in the area include corn/soybean rotations with wheat of varying importance, and alfalfa an important forage crop. Crop yields at KBS are typical of rain-fed yields elsewhere in the North Central Region. Rainfed corn yields, for example, mirror the U.S. national average and in good climate years approach 240 bu/acre.