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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: NEW CROPS AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE CROPPING EFFICIENCY IN SHORT-SEASON HIGH-STRESS ENVIRONMENTS

Location: Soil Management Research

2010 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Objective 1: Identify and develop new and alternative crops and cropping strategies for the northern U.S. • Sub-objective 1-1. Identify best adapted species/genotypes of new, alternative, and traditional crops for biofuels and bioproducts production in northern climates. • Sub-objective 1-2. Develop innovative, and improve existing strategies for managing new, alternative, and traditional crops. • Sub-objective 1-3. Determine environmental limitations on growth, development, and seed oil and nutritional quality of new, alternative, and traditional crops. Objective 2: Develop new strategies and decision aids to improve and increase the efficiency of weed management. • Sub-objective 2-1. Develop biological models of important invasive and prominent weeds, stressing critical life history events. • Sub-objective 2-2. Develop and improve weed management models. • Sub-objective 2-3. Explore feasibilities of entirely new strategies of managing weeds, focusing on increasing research on biologically-based integrated weed management.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Two mutually supporting approaches will be taken to meet our objectives. The first involves a series of field studies to identify new (e.g. cuphea, pennycress, and bifora) and alternative crop genotypes (e.g. camelina and calendula), develop practices to manage them, and use these crops along with traditional crops to develop alternative strategies (double- and relay-cropping) to add innovative economic and environmental benefits. Additionally, controlled-environment and field experiments will be conducted to determine environmental limitations (e.g. water and soil and air temperature) to growth of new and alternative crops. The second approach involves the integration of field and controlled-environment experiments of weed growth and development, innovative weed control methods, and computer modeling to develop decision support aids to efficiently and effectively manage weeds in cropping systems that include new and alternative, as well as traditional crops. Together the outcomes of this research will provide clientele with new knowledge, crops, and management tools to increase cropping efficiency and diversity in northern climates.


3.Progress Report
Project personnel work on two primary issues:.
1)identify new and alternative crop varieties, develop practices for managing them, and develop strategies to integrate these crops with traditional crops to add environmental and economic benefits; and.
2)integrate weed growth and development data, innovative weed control methods, and computer modeling to develop decision support aids to efficiently and effectively manage weeds in cropping systems that include new and alternative, and traditional crops. Progress during this reporting cycle related to the first approach includes completing experiments to determine optimum planting time for winter and spring camelina, a new oilseed crop. This work was presented at an international meeting. A new experiment was initiated during this cycle to examine methods of double-cropping winter camelina followed by soybean. An agreement was formed with a cosmetic/personal care manufacturing company, and funding was received for $10,500 to expand our research on cuphea. A two-year study on determining physiological maturity in sunflower based on seed moisture was completed. Results were presented at the National Sunflower Association meeting and two manuscripts for publication are being developed. Currently a visiting M.Sc. graduate student from Ecole Superieure d’ Agriculture in Angers, France, is working with us on calendula research to develop best management practices for its production. Completion of most of the milestones for this reporting cycle is ahead of schedule. Progress regarding the second approach includes continuing studies to test herbicides that might be used for controlling weeds in calendula. The most promising herbicides are being field-tested at our research farm and on-farm in a farmer’s field in western MN. Experiments were continued on schedule to evaluate weed phenological response (e.g., extent and timing of shoot emergence, shoot growth, and anthesis timing) to differing levels of microclimate-derived variables. We are also continuing to research a new weed control tactic that utilizes the grit of plant residues such as walnut shells propelled with a sand blaster to abrade (i.e., damage leaves and stems) and kill weed seedlings. Results are positive, but the effectiveness of the technique still requires field verification, which is currently in progress. As a direct result of this research, a Federal grant was secured (2010-2012, $175,000) to build a field-scale demonstration model of an implement for abrading weeds. A fellowship at AgResearch, New Zealand, was awarded to one of our team members to study this technique further. Three team-oriented weed research projects have continued that involve collaborations with several other ARS scientists/locations and international scientists from Canada, Spain, Denmark, and Argentina. A visiting scientist from Argentina is in residence in Morris from July-September 2010 to learn and collaborate on our modeling techniques.


4.Accomplishments
1. Cuphea adds economic benefits when rotated with corn, soybean, and wheat. Most farmers in the northern Corn Belt grow just corn and soybean and a little bit of wheat. Sometimes they rotate these crops every other year but sometimes they grow the same crop continuously in a given field, which has resulted in certain pests becoming well adapted to surviving in such fields. In turn, the farmer must use a great deal of pesticides and fertilizer to maintain high crop yields. ARS researchers at Morris, MN, showed that cuphea can be successfully rotated with corn, soybean, or wheat to provide certain economic benefits. For instance when wheat follows cuphea in rotation, its seed protein level and plant population is greater than when it is grown after corn or soybean. We also found that corn and soybean were more profitable when grown the following year after cuphea than when they were each grown year after year. Our finding will benefit crop scientists studying rotational effects of crops and will help seed companies contracting with farmers to grow cuphea, and university extension and crop consultants helping farmers to manage cuphea production in their fields.

2. Irrigation boosts cuphea seed yields. Cuphea is a new oilseed crop being developed for the northern Corn Belt that can serve as a rich source of oil similar to tropical plant oils that are presently imported into the U.S. for chemical manufacturing. Our past research shows that cuphea has a shallow root system and uses large amounts of water, so we suspected that cuphea might be prone to drought stress during its growing season and therefore, may benefit from irrigation. In a two-year field study we compared the production of irrigated and non-irrigated cuphea and discovered that during a dry growing season cuphea seed yields could be boosted nearly three-fold higher when applying irrigation. Furthermore, using the data we collected we calculated that approximately 19 inches of water, which includes that of rain and/or irrigation plus stored soil water during the growing season, is needed to produce relatively high cuphea seed yields. Cuphea is potentially a high-value crop if grown for the cosmetic and personal care products industry, in which case irrigation may be warranted for its production. Our results will help farmers decide whether they should use irrigation when growing cuphea and help our industry partners who manage cuphea production to decide where to grow cuphea to optimize yields and economic returns with or without using irrigation.

3. Predicting the emergence of bed straws, a wide-spread noxious weed. Bedstraws or cleavers are weeds that are a serious problem in small grain crops throughout the temperate parts of the world. They can germinate and emerge in autumn or in spring to plague both winter- and spring-growing cereals. ARS researchers at Morris, MN, along with other ARS and Spanish researchers set out to better understand the emergence patterns of bedstraw plants and to develop predictive tools, such as computer models, to simulate emergence in three bedstraw and one cleavers species. Original field data from wheat fields in Spain were used to develop the mathematical models, and independent field data from England were used to test the validity of the model for catchweed bedstraw, the most common bedstraw species. All of the models appeared to simulate the original data well; and the model for catchweed closely mimicked the independent results from England, indicating that these models likely can be applied to areas beyond where the original data were collected. These models will be useful for helping extension educators, crop advisors, agrichemical industry personnel, and growers make timely management recommendations and decisions for controlling bedstraws and cleavers based upon when they are emerging in field soils.


Review Publications
Royo-Esnal, A., Torra, J., Conesa, J.A., Forcella, F., Recasens, J. 2010. Modeling the Emergence of Three Arable Bedstraw (Galium) Species. Weed Science. 58:10-15.

Gesch, R.W., Archer, D.W., Forcella, F. 2010. Rotational Effects of Cuphea on Corn, Spring Wheat, and Soybean. Agronomy Journal. 102(1):145-153.

Gesch, R.W., Sharratt, B.S., Kim, K. 2009. Yield and Water Use Response of Cuphea to Irrigation in the Northern Corn Belt. Crop Science. 49:1867-1875.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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