Research to Improve Profitability and Environmental Benefits of Grass Seed Farming Systems
General Background: Over 60% of the world’s supply of cool-season forage and turf grass seed is produced on farms in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Because these farms constitute a significant portion of the regional landscape, especially in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, they have the potential for significant impacts on environmental quality, both beneficial and detrimental. Past legislative, judicial, and executive actions addressing environmental concerns ranging from air and water quality to control of invasive weeds and gene flow among plants all have impacted the economic sustainability of PNW grass seed agriculture.
A more science-based approach for future environmental policy decisions will require considerably more detailed knowledge of farming practices and ecological consequences of those practices across the landscape. Previous research found that losses of nutrients, sediments, and pesticides were far higher during periods of stand removal and reseeding than after establishment of perennial grasses grown for seed.
Because of spatial variation in soil types, crop species, and stand durations, delivery to rivers and streams of sediments, nutrients, and pesticides can also be expected to vary across the landscape, along with their impact on fish, amphibians, waterfowl, and other biological indicators.
Maps and GIS Files
Develop landscape-level data and methods to assess relationships between production practices and indicator-species biology
Problem: Detailed information on agricultural land-use patterns and production practices are not routinely collected in the US, limiting the ability of researchers to link discrete observations of water quality and indicator species biology to agricultural practices across a landscape.
Objective: Create a Geographic Information System (GIS) containing a long-term record of land-use patterns and agricultural production practices from ground-truth surveys and remotely sensed data for grass seed farming in western Oregon.
Goal: To test hypothesis that spatial variation in wildlife abundance and diversity within the Calapooia River watershed is related to sub-basin agricultural practices, including no-till vs. conventional tillage stand establishment, annual vs. perennial crop selection, and presence of riparian buffers.
Improve within-field production efficiency
Problem: Adoption and use of precision agriculture methods in grass seed production is limited by quality of data and difficulties in formulating and rigorously testing statistical hypotheses.
Objective: Improve the signal-to-noise ratio in combine yield monitor data streams by procedures that better recognize non-uniform operating conditions to select the most reliable data for further analysis against known spatial patterns, including soil types, elevation, and proximity to pests and variable rate management inputs.
Goal: To develop profitability maps identifying portions of fields most and least suited to grass seed production and other alternatives land uses, including conservation easements, riparian zones, and forests.
Monitor and analyze weed distribution patterns
Problem: Limited knowledge of weed severity patterns across the landscape hinders effective decision making by farmers, production consultants, and regulators. Public availability of a grass seed weed GIS could improve pesticide development, registration, and application decisions, but privacy concerns have delayed the development of such a GIS.
Objective: Develop procedures to characterize the significant features of weed demographics in the grass seed industry without revealing confidential business information.
Goal: To transform weed severity data in 10 years of Oregon Seed Certification inspection reports into publicly available maps of weed severity hot spots useful in weed control decision-making by farmers, consultants, and regulators.