Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Evolution and Adaptation of Cropping Systems in the the Northern and Central Great Plains

Authors
item Tanaka, Donald
item Anderson, Randal

Submitted to: Dynamic Cropping Systems: Principles, Processes and Challenges
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: May 30, 2003
Publication Date: August 4, 2003
Citation: Tanaka, D.L. and R.L. Anderson. Evolustion and adaptation of cropping systems in the northern and central Great Plains. p.105-113. IN: Hanson, J.D. and J.M. Krupinsky (eds.), Proceedings of the Dynamic Cropping Systems: Principles, Processes, and Challenges. August 4-7. 2003, Bismarck, ND

Interpretive Summary: Agriculture in the northern and central Great Plains has evolved from simple cultivation to a number of differentiated forms. Cultivated crop production is one of these differentiated forms. Many of our current crops have been adapted from wild plants to produce consistent and sustainable crop yields. Objectives of this paper are to evaluate and illustrate the evolution and adaptation of cropping systems as knowledge of principles, processes, and practices have changed in the northern and central Great Plains. Early cropping systems used crops adapted to the soil and climatic conditions of the area. In the northern Great Plains, spring wheat-fallow cropping systems developed, while in the central Great Plains, winter wheat-fallow cropping systems developed. Fallow principles and techniques to store soil water have greatly improved in the past 100 plus years, but fallow water storage efficiencies seldom exceed 45%. Therefore, greater cropping intensity and a greater number of diverse crops are needed to make more efficient use of precipitation. The challenge is to develop cropping patterns or crop sequences that exploit the internal resources of the system. It is not only imperative we adapt cropping systems to diversity n time but also diversity in space and to better understand the principles and processes of these systems to take advantage of the internal resources.

Technical Abstract: Cropping systems cannot persist or be sustainable for the long-term without some type of adaptive evolution. Many of our current crops have been adapted from wild plants to produce consistent and sustainable crop yields. Objectives of our paper are to evaluate and illustrate the evolution and adaptation of cropping systems as new knowledge of principles, processes and practices have changed in the northern and central Great Plains. Early settlers in the northern and central Great Plains developed cropping systems based on the climatic conditions in their area. Therefore, the predominant cropping system in the northern Great Plains was spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-fallow while in the central Great Plains winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L)-fallow systems developed. Fallow principles and techniques to store soil water have greatly improved in the past 100 plus years with fallow water storage efficiencies above 40%. Since fallow efficiencies seldom exceed 45%, more efficient use of precipitation may be accomplished through intensive cropping systems. By increasing the cropping intensity and adding a diverse number of crops, cropping systems can dramatically influence soil microorganisms and environment. The challenge is to develop cropping patterns or crop sequences to take advantage of synergism. Minimal attention has been given to exploiting these internal resources. Currently, many cropping systems are alternating crops and crop varieties to adapt to diversity in time. Future cropping systems will not only need to be adapted to diversity in time, but also to diversity in space (polyculture). It is imperative to learn how to manage these interspecies systems and determine the principles and processes of the systems to take advantage of the internal mechanisms for soil renewal as we enter an era of greater environmental awareness.

Last Modified: 8/21/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page