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proso millet in "dynamic farming" experiment, testing alternatives to
wheat-fallow rotation. These are two of 18 candidate crops for Great Plains
annual rotations. Click the image for more information about
Great Plains Farmers Are Diversifying
Comis June 9, 2005
The days of growing wheat every other year or two and leaving the
ground bare the rest of the time are a thing of the past in the Great Plains
states. Agricultural Research Service
(ARS) scientists are giving farmers more than a dozen crops to choose from each
year, and the means to make choices from among more than 100 possible
The ARS scientists have also developed a free CD farmers can insert in
their computers to calculate which crops to plant after inputting the latest
Hanson, research leader of the ARS
Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, N.D., calls this new approach
"dynamic farming." Dynamic farming systems provide a diversified portfolio of
crops for farmers in the Northern Great Plains to choose from. Farmers can
change crops quickly in response to sudden changes in market conditions,
weather or government policy.
Vigil, research leader of the ARS
Great Plains Resources Management Research Unit in Akron, Colo., uses the
same approach for the Central Great Plains.
All of this was made possible by the introduction of no-till and
related conservation tillage techniques which leave a cover of unharvested
plant parts to slow moisture evaporation from the soil. This means there's
enough moisture in the soil to sustain crops just about every year. The
combination of conservation tillage and annual rotations gives farmers extra
income, higher yields, more stability, fewer pests, more protection against
drought, less soil erosion and more water.
The order in which crops are grown has to be chosen carefully,
considering such factors as the amount of residue a crop leaves, and root
The scientists have found that how residue is managed can make a big
difference at harvest--10 to 20 extra bushels of corn per acre, in just one
example. They are constantly studying ways to improve the systems, including
adding new crops and varieties. They're also researching all the factors
responsible for obtaining the greatest economic return while minimizing risk.
about the research in Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.