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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Pullman, Washington » Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #226961

Title: Systems Approach to Crop Rotation Research: Guidelines and Challenges

item Young, Francis

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/23/2008
Publication Date: 12/30/2008
Citation: Young, F.L., Bewick, L.S., Pan, W.L. 2008. Systems Approach to Crop Rotation Research: Guidelines and Challenges. pp 41-70. In Crop Rotation. ed. Berklain, Y.U. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. New York.

Interpretive Summary: Currently there are only a few large-scale, long-term multidisciplinary projects studying agricultural production systems. Major drawbacks to these studies include the need for a large field site, for extensive funding to establish and maintain the research, a long-term commitment from researchers, and the difficulty associated with analyzing the data. Researchers after successfully completing a 9-year integrated pest management project, and a 12-year conservation tillage annual spring cropping systems project in the Pacific Northwest, have provided information on their experiences with conducting long-term, field research. They discuss the framework, objectives, treatments, research team members, and funding required to establish successful long-term cropping systems research. They also discuss numerous organizational and operational structures that strengthened the research projects. One organizational structure that led to the success of these projects was the involvement in the planning process of growers, who described their problems and areas of research needed on their farms. The researchers also list problems, limitations, and constraints encountered during the studies and discuss possible solutions. Without a doubt, the most limiting factor and greatest problem in these studies was guaranteed, long-term funding. They describe the use of small-scale satellite studies to compliment the core, long-term studies and the consequences that arise when these necessary studies are not conducted. With continued emphasis on sustainable agriculture, ideas, procedures, and information from these projects may be used to formulate and organize long-term field research projects that focus on biofuel and alternative crops.

Technical Abstract: The wheat growing area of the PNW is a unique region in that precipitation ranges from < 300 mm to 600 mm. The majority of the precipitation occurs during the winter months, which is ideal for winter wheat production. Because of this, growers produce winter wheat as often as possible and until the 1980’s very little was known about crop rotations. From 1982 until 2007, USDA-ARS and university scientists have had experience conducting long-term, field-scale, inter/multidisciplinary, conservation tillage cropping systems research in the low to high rainfall zones of the PNW. Along the way numerous strategies were used to develop, implement, and integrate new and improved technologies for crop rotation and production practices to increase growers’ profits, inform management decisions, and protect natural resources. This chapter discusses these strategies and additional guidelines, problems, and limitations associated with long-term cropping systems research. For example, researchers faced the dilemma of conducting six-year studies when funding agencies’ definition of long-term was two to three years. In addition, these agencies were familiar only with funding one or two disciplines, not seven or eight concurrently. To rectify this problem the Project Leader procured from several agencies a series of small grants that overlapped in time. Data will be presented that demonstrates the benefit of conducting short-term, single discipline, satellite studies concurrently with the core long-term studies. Long-term cropping systems studies represent a holistic multidisciplinary approach to farming that can be adopted/adapted by farmers to enhance profitability and sustainability.