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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Changes in Soil after 14 Years of No-Till Alternative Crop Rotation Research

Authors
item Vigil, Merle
item Nielsen, David
item Benjamin, Joseph
item Henry, William
item Mikha, Maysoon
item Calderon, Francisco
item Anderson, Randal
item Bowman, R - RETIRED

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 7, 2004
Publication Date: February 1, 2005
Citation: Vigil, M.F., Nielsen, D.C., Benjamin, J.G., Henry, W.B., Mikha, M.M., Calderon, F.J., Anderson, R.L., Bowman, R.A. 2005. Changes in soil after 14 years of no-till alternative crop rotation research. Proceedings of the 17th Annual Winter Conference, Colorado Conservation Tillage Association in cooperation with National Sunflower Association presents The High Plains No-Till Conference. Feb. 1-2. 2005. Island Grove Park, Greeley, CO. P. L1-L6.

Interpretive Summary: Producers in the semi-arid Central Great Plains region have asked ARS to find alternative crop rotation systems to winter wheat summer fallow (WF). Winter wheat summer fallow is the system were one crop is grown every two years. The fallow year in that system, actually last 14 months and is managed to store soil water for the subsequent crop year. The practice was developed to reduce the risk of crop failure due to drought in the semi-arid west. The problem is that this WF system of leaving the soil bare for 14 months is not environmentally or economically sustainable. The objective of this research is to evaluate alternative rotation systems to WF for production potential and to quantify changes in soil quality measured in these alternative cropping systems. Twenty three alternative rotation systems are being evaluated for economic and biomass yield at the USDA-ARS Central Great Plains Research Station in Akron Colorado. Early conclusions focused on the increase in total grain production on an annualized basis of >60% for wheat-corn-sunflower-fallow (WCSF), wheat-corn-fallow and wheat-corn-millet-fallow (WCMF) over WF. Recently we have found several “good “ changes in soil properties associated with the intensive no-till rotations. In general, an increase in soil organic matter at the soil surface, a decrease in soil pH and an increase in plant available iron and zinc plant have all been associated with the change from conventional WF to the intensive no-till rotations. We have also found that wheat yields are significantly greater in WCMF and WCF than in other rotations, averaging 8% greater yield than WF.

Technical Abstract: Producers in the Central Great Plains have asked ARS to find alternative crop rotation systems to winter wheat summer fallow (WF). The objective of this research is to evaluate alternative rotation systems for production potential and to quantify changes in soil quality measured in these alternative systems. Twenty three rotations are being evaluated for economic and biomass yield at the USDA-ARS Central Great Plains Research Station in Akron Colorado. Early conclusions focused on the increase in total grain production on an annualized basis of >60% for wheat -corn -sunflower-fallow (WCSF), wheat-corn-fallow and wheat-corn -millet -fallow (WCMF) over WF. Recently we have found several “good “ changes in soil properties associated with the intensive no-till rotations. In general, an increase in soil organic matter at the soil surface, a decrease in soil pH and an increase in iron and zinc availability have all been associated with the change from conventional WF to the intensive no-till rotations. We have also found that wheat yields are greater in WCMF and WCF than in other rotations.

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