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ARS Home » Plains Area » Akron, Colorado » Central Great Plains Resources Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #212844

Title: Alternative No-till Rotations and Drought Mitigation Research in the Central Great Plains Region

item Vigil, Merle

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/1/2007
Publication Date: 7/24/2007
Citation: Vigil, M.F. 2007. Alternative No-till Rotations and Drought Mitigation Research in the Central Great Plains Region. Meeting Abstract. Annual Soil and Water Conservation Society Conference. July 24-26, 2007. Tampa, FL.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Farmers in the dryland portion of the Central Great Plains Region make their living on land that receives 14-20 inches of precipitation annually. The evaporative demand in the region is usually 4 to 8 times that amount and so the challenge to successfully farm this region is great. The crops and land are nearly always in a water deficit. For ~70 years winter wheat-summer fallow (WF) has been the dominant dryland production system in the Central Great Plains Region. The idea with WF is to store precipitation that falls during a 14-month “summer-fallow” period in the soil. That stored water is then available in the subsequent year to reduce the risk of crop failure (due to drought). That system, (which was a good idea 50 years ago) is for most soils in the region not economically or environmentally sustainable. Through the introduction of no-till and direct seeding, enough water is stored in the soil to justify increasing the cropping intensity from one crop in two years to 3 crops in four years and in some cases to crop continuously with no summer fallow. In this presentation, we will discuss results from alternative crop rotation experiments at Akron and in the northern Great Plains; which document positive changes in economics, yield, and soil quality when soils of the region are managed using no-tillage with intensive crop rotations. In these experiments, we document increases in soil organic C, increases in aggregate stability, improvements in soil water storage, increases in crop yield and enhanced farm gate economics. Recently we have also documented yield enhancements in these dryland systems by simply changing row spacing using a “skip-row technique”.