Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Kimberly, Idaho » Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research » Research » Research Project #441378

Research Project: Developing Resilient Irrigated Cropping Systems in Concentrated Dairy Production Areas of the Semi-arid West

Location: Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research

2022 Annual Report

Objective 1: Develop improved practices and strategies for managing inputs in irrigated cropping systems to increase soil health, optimize crop productivity and quality, and minimize negative environmental impacts. Sub-objective 1A: Identify effects of fertilizer source, timing of application, and nitrification/urease inhibitors on nutrient cycling and field-scale nutrient budgets. Sub-objective 1B: Identify effects of past manure application rate and frequency on biological indicators of soil health, nutrient cycling, and field-scale nutrient budgets. Sub-objective 1C: Determine the efficacy of cover crops and minimum tillage to reduce offsite transport of soil nutrients in a dairy forage crop rotation receiving manure. Sub-objective 1D: Determine the long-term agronomic economic effects of manure applications on crops, soil nutrient (primarily N, C, and P) cycling, and soil health indicators. Sub-objective 1E: Determine effects of crop rotation, tillage, and residue management on residue breakdown rates and nutrient cycling in irrigated cropping systems. Sub-objective 1F: Evaluate aboveground biomass yield, forage quality, and nutrient cycling of sorghum-sudangrass hybrids under multiple management practices (row spacing, number of cuttings, and cultivar). Objective 2: Quantify gaseous emissions from dairy production facilities and manure-amended soils to improve nutrient cycling and reduce environmental impact of these systems. Sub-objective 2A: Determine the effect of manure application rate and frequency on soil GHG emissions. Sub-objective 2B: Determine the effect of manure, cover crop, and minimum tillage on soil GHG emissions. Sub-objective 2C: Determine ammonia transport and dry deposition in the Magic Valley region and improve accuracy of deposition models.

Resilient irrigated cropping systems in concentrated dairy production regions require proper management of nutrients to maximize agricultural production while minimizing environmental impacts. Dairy farms in the region generally have more cows and produce more milk than in the past. With the increased number of cattle comes an increased production of manure that must be managed. Crop production coexists in the region with a diverse assortment of crops with varying nutrient needs to meet yield and quality goals. The current project will address crop production and environmental issues that results from concentrated dairy and crop production. Broadly, the project objectives are to improve crop nutrient use efficiency, minimize nutrient and greenhouse gas losses to the environment, investigate novel crops, and determine the impact of crop residues in the agroecosystem. These objectives will lead to improved management practices for irrigated cropping systems in semi-arid environments. Research consists of several continuing long-term studies along with newly developed projects. Objective 1 is focused on how inputs are managed and effect the agroecosystem. The objective is comprised of seven studies. Long-term studies will evaluate the impact of synthetic fertilizers (with and without nitrification inhibitors in one study) and dairy manure on crop response, nutrient cycling, and soil health. New studies will evaluate impacts of novel cropping approaches, including forage cover crops and grasses such as sorghum-sudangrass, on crop production, nutrient cycling, and soil health. Additionally, these studies will address the impact of crop rotation, tillage, and residue management practices on these factors as well. Objective 2 contains three projects focused on determining gaseous emissions from dairy facilities and manure-amended soils. Long term manure application rate effects on greenhouse gas emissions will be studied. A second study will measure the effects of manure, cover crop, and minimum tillage on greenhouse gas emissions. The final project will determine regional ammonia nitrogen transport to improve models that predict ammonia depositions from the atmosphere to the soil surface.

Progress Report
This report documents progress for project 2054-12000-013-000D, “Developing Resilient Irrigated Cropping Systems in Concentrated Dairy Production Areas of the Semi-arid West,” which started December 2021 and continues research from bridging project 2054-12000-012-000D, “Improving Management Practices for Irrigated Western Cropping and Dairy Systems to Contribute to Sustainability and Improve Air Quality.” Previously established research studies continued, and new studies were initiated in support of Objective 1. Long-term studies continued evaluating the use of manure for irrigated, dairy forage production systems, with specific emphasis on carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycling in the system. Manure applications increased plant nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations and increased soil carbon concentrations. Manure application also increased crude protein content of forages but resulted in few other positive or negative impacts on forage quality. Impacts of a one-time manure application (i.e., manure priming) is being studied in a sugar beet, silage corn, grain rotation. A combination of herbicide injury and excessive weed pressure greatly impacted sugar beet growth in 2021 so yield and quality data were not measured. Silage corn production is progressing optimally in 2022 and crop yield and quality data are expected to be collected in Fall 2022. Wheat and barley rotational and tillage practice studies were established, and yield and soil samples were collected and measured. These studies will provide information on soil health and carbon cycling in semi-arid irrigated production systems. Research on sorghum-sudangrass was conducted and plant biomass and forage quality were analyzed while water use was also measured. Preliminary data showed that a single cutting and narrower row spacing increased yields compared to multi-cuttings and wide row spacings. These studies have progressed as planned and production for the current growing season is well underway. The results of these studies will provide improved strategies for crop management in irrigated production regions. Research continued or was initiated to measure gas emissions from dairy production facilities and manure treated fields in support of Objective 2. Greenhouse gas emissions were measured in semi-arid irrigated cropping systems as well as biological and chemical indicators of soil health. These results, along with future results from Objectives 1 and 2, will be used to identify practices that will improve soil health while minimizing gas emissions. The greenhouse gas emission results will also be used to improve national emission inventories. Ammonia deposition research was conducted with much of the work to date focusing on developing protocols. One ammonia deposition monitoring station was installed, and the second monitoring station will be deployed in Fall 2022.


Review Publications
Rogers, C.W., Dari, B., Neibling, H., Walling, J.G. 2022. Barley yield and malt-characteristics as affected by nitrogen and final irrigation timing. Agronomy Journal. 114(2):1461-1474.
Tarkalson, D.D., King, B.A., Bjorneberg, D.L. 2022. Maize grain yield and crop water productivity functions in the arid northwest U.S. Agricultural Water Management. 265. Article 107513.