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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Pullman, Washington » Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #309818

Research Project: Cultural Practices and Cropping Systems for Economically Viable and Environmentally Sound Oilseed Production in Dryland of Columbia Plateau

Location: Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research

Title: Comparisons of annual no-till spring cereal cropping systems in the Pacific Northwest

Author
item Young, Francis
item ALLDREDGE, J - Retired Non ARS Employee
item PAN, WILLIAM - Washington State University

Submitted to: Crop Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/3/2015
Publication Date: 6/12/2015
Publication URL: https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/cftm/abstracts/1/1/cftm2014.0089
Citation: Young, F.L., Alldredge, J.R., Pan, W.L. 2015. Comparisons of annual no-till spring cereal cropping systems in the Pacific Northwest. Crop Management. 1:1.

Interpretive Summary: For more than 130 years, winter wheat rotated with tilled summer fallow (WW/SF) has been the dominate production system in the low-precipitation zone of the Pacific Northwest. This region encompasses almost 4 million acres of cropland and is characterized by winter annual grass weeds, severe wind erosion, and soil borne diseases. There is currently a lack of knowledge and information available to producers to alleviate these problems. Therefore a 6-year study was conducted to evaluate the agronomic and economic feasibility of three no-till spring cereal cropping systems to replace or supplement tilled fallow. The systems included: winter wheat/reduced tillage fallow (WWF); no-till spring wheat/chemical fallow (SWCF); continuous no-till hard red spring wheat (CHRSW); and no-till hard red spring wheat/no-till spring barley (HRSWSB). The WWF system produced about 25% more grain and almost $70/acre more net return than the second best system (SWCF). The WWF system only reduced soil erosion susceptibility 55% compared to 95% in the no-till systems when these systems were compared to the traditional tillage fallow system. Net returns were the lowest for the CHRSW system because of the high nitrogen fertilizer input required to reach protein premiums. During the last year of the study when annual precipitation was 30% less than the long-term average, crop yields were 45 to 80% below their respective 5-year average depending on the crop. If conservation payments were available, net returns could be increased and would thereby motivate adoption of the soil-saving spring cropping systems by producers.

Technical Abstract: Winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) – summer fallow (WWF) has been the prevalent rotation in the low rainfall zone of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) for more than 130 years; however this rotation is characterized by poor soil health, poor environmental sustainability, and high pest incidence. A 6-year study was initiated in 1995 to evaluate the agronomic and economic feasibility of no-till spring cereal cropping systems to replace or supplement F. The systems included: WWF; no-till spring wheat-chemical fallow (SWCF); continuous no-till hard red spring wheat (CHRSW); and no-till hard red spring wheat - no-till spring barley (HRSWSB). Overall the WWF (reduced tillage fallow) system produced 25% more grain, almost $70/ha more net return and was less risky compared to the second best (SWCF) system. This research was the first ever to examine a SWCF system. This system yielded higher than both the CHRSW and HRSWSB in all but one year. In general HRSW yielded similarly for both systems. The 2000-2001 crop growing season was extremely dry and crop yields for that year were from 45 to 80% less than their respective 5-year average, depending on the crop. Although all of the no-till spring cropping systems provided greater wind-erosion protection, their economic returns were negative for the duration of the study. Because of grower and scientist interest in improving this regions sustainability we are continually exploring and expanding research on new cropping systems.