Submitted to: Sustainability
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/23/2010
Publication Date: 11/30/2010
Citation: Tanaka, D.L., Liebig, M.A., Krupinsky, J.M., Merrill, S.D. 2010. Crop sequence influences on sustainable spring wheat production in the northern Great Plains. Sustainability. 2(12):3695-3709. Interpretive Summary: Since World War II, American agriculture has been extremely successful and has met the demand of an industrialized food system. This success has come from highly specialized, standardized, and simplified cropping systems which lack crop diversity. Objectives of our research were to determine the benefits and/or drawbacks of previous crop sequences on spring wheat seed yield, seed N concentration, and seed precipitation-use efficiency. Spring wheat production risks were mitigated when second year crop residue was dry pea. During below-average precipitation years like 2004, dry pea as the second year residue crop increased spring wheat seed yield by 30% when compared to spring wheat residue as the second year crop residue. Hence, crop sequence played a pivotal role to synergize agroecological parameters and improve production efficiencies. Diversifying the cropping system with crops other than spring wheat, synergized the following spring wheat crop and enhanced sunlight capture, nutrient uptake, and precipitation use. To be sustainable in the future, cropping systems need to move beyond fossil fuel derived yield increases and rely more on renewable systems that are resilient.
Technical Abstract: Cropping systems in American agriculture are highly successful since World War II, but have become highly specialized, standardized, and simplified to meet the demands of an industrialized food system. Minimal attention has been given to the efficient exploitation of crop diversity and the synergistic and/or antagonistic relationships of crops in crop sequences. Objectives of our research were to determine the benefits and/or drawbacks of previous crop sequences on spring wheat seed yield, seed N concentration, and seed precipitation-use efficiency in the semiarid northern Great Plains, USA. Research was conducted 6 km southwest of Mandan, ND using a 10x10 crop matrix technique as a research tool to evaluate multiple crop sequence effects on spring wheat (triticum aestivum L.) production in 2004 and 2005. Spring wheat production risks can be mitigated when second year crop residue was dry pea (Pisium sativum L.) averaged over all first year crop residues. When compared to spring wheat as second year crop residue in the dry year of 2004, dry pea as the second year residue crop resulted in a 30% spring wheat seed yield increase. Sustainable cropping systems need to use precipitation efficiently for crop production, especially during below average precipitation years like 2004. Precipitation use efficiency average over all treatments, during the below average precipitation year was 23% greater than the above average precipitation year of 2005. Diversifying crops in cropping systems improves production efficiencies and resilience of agricultural systems.