Rotating Safflower with Wheat Can Boost Farmers' ProfitsBy Dawn Lyons-Johnson
April 15, 1998
Safflower's vibrant yellow petals catch the eye, but it's the deep-growing
roots of this oilseed crop that farmers may find most attractive.
Agricultural Research Service
scientists at Mandan, N.D., say wheat farmers on the western Great Plains can
grow safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) as a high-value rotation crop.
ARS scientists Donald Tanaka and Steve Merrill say safflower's deep roots take
up water and nutrients that wheat can't reach. Wheat plant roots grow about four
feet deep, while safflower's roots push down to six feet. Safflower also thrives
in the warm, dry summer climate of the western Great Plains.
The scientists found that safflower is well suited to no-till wheat fields
because the seeds can be planted close to the surface. It germinates and takes
advantage of the high moisture content of no-till, where little or no tillage
preserves organic matter.
Safflower has been cultivated in the United States since the 1950s.
Safflower seeds are processed for cooking oil or sold for higher-quality bird
food. Rotating safflower with wheat will increase acreage and allow farmers to
sell the seed for these high-value uses.
Planting safflower also has an environmental benefit: ARS research shows up
to 50 percent less nitrates in soil during years when safflower was planted in
rotation with wheat. Nitrate is another form of nitrogen, an important crop
By using safflower in a crop rotation, farmers can prevent nitrates from
leaching into the groundwater because the safflower plants take up nitrogen and
use it to produce the seeds, Tanaka says.
A complete story on safflower and its benefits as a rotational
crop in wheat can be found in the April issue of Agricultural Research
magazine. The article is also on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Donald Tanaka and Steve Merrill, Natural
Resources Management Research unit, Northern
Great Plains Research Laboratory, Mandan, ND, phone (701) 667-3063/3016, fax