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Research Project: Precision Farming for Development of Sustainable Dryland Cropping Systems of the Central Great Plains Region


Project Number: 3010-12210-004-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 15, 2018
End Date: Jan 3, 2023

Objective 1: Develop management practices incorporating the latest technology developments for a field size aspirational four year, dryland crop rotation system with precision nutrient, agrichemical, weed control and crop population management. Sub-objective 1a. Identify and quantify production parameters most important in affecting economic yields across a dryland field-scape. Sub-objective 1b. Develop methods for quantifying optimal precision N management for specific management zones in wheat-based dryland rotation. Sub-objective 1c. Develop methods to quantify optimal corn populations for specific management zones in a four-year aspirational rotation. Sub-objective 1d. Develop and evaluate new tools for assessing soil quality across a field-scape using spectral scanning (FTIR) and other quick methods. Sub-objective 1e. Evaluate the use of drone based data for the quantification of crop water stress in dryland crop rotations. Objective 2: Compare yields, economic returns, and environmental impacts of the aspirational rotation system, to a dryland rotation system currently used by producers of the region. Sub-objective 2a. Quantify and compare grain yields and economic returns from a precision-managed four-year aspirational no-till rotation with a “business as usual” reduced-till wheat-fallow rotation. Sub-objective 2b. Quantify and evaluate changes in soil quality as affected by both management systems across the field-scape. Objective 3: Evaluate potential alternative crops and management practices for introduction into the aspirational wheat based dryland rotation system. Sub-objective 3a. Continue evaluations of germplasm and potential alternative crops for inclusion into wheat-based dryland systems. Sub-objective 3b. Evaluate new agronomic practices for inclusion into aspirational wheat-based dryland rotations.

Dryland farmers in the central Great Plains have the technical means to collect much of the field data needed for precision farm/field management. These data often available in a map format or “data layer” include field grain-yield maps, soil-color maps, electrical conductivity (EC), pH, topographical-elevation field maps, and soil-series maps. However, most dryland producers do not have a science-based, unbiased collection of quantitative recommendations for interpreting how to best use those field data layers. The lack of reliable quantitative recommendations makes it difficult to manage field-scape variability for maximizing net returns. In this project, researchers will use a replicated set of field sized plots that show substantial variability in productivity as one moves through a given field. Using this large field experiment we will develop the mathematical relationships between yield, and inherent field variability and climate variability that are key to a field’s annual productivity. This research will provide a quantitative understanding of how N inputs in dryland rotations can best be optimized across variable field landscapes and variable climate for improving farm gate income. With that science based knowledge researchers will build reliable decision support tools to help guide producers on precision farm management in semi-arid wheat base dryland rotations. This research will also focus on precision optimization of dryland corn populations that match inherent field and climate variability. Soil health monitoring of the rotation treatments and the testing and development of quick methods for assessing soil quality will also be included as important research aspects of the project.