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ARS Home » Plains Area » Brookings, South Dakota » Integrated Cropping Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #343013

Research Project: Productive Cropping Systems Based on Ecological Principles of Pest Management

Location: Integrated Cropping Systems Research

Title: Continuous cropping with 13 - 15 inches of precipitation

item Anderson, Randal

Submitted to: Internet Web Page
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/5/2017
Publication Date: 1/12/2017
Citation: Anderson, R.L. 2017. Continuous cropping with 13 - 15 inches of precipitation? No-Till Farmer Web Page.

Interpretive Summary: Producers in semiarid regions like western Nebraska are often faced with a shortage of water for crop production, and use fallow to store precipitation for future crop use. Producers believe that fallow reduces yield variability and crop loss due to drought. Yet, fallow damages soil health. However, producers in the area who no-till and follow diverse crop rotations have eliminated the need for fallow and are continuously cropping. Their winter wheat yields are higher than wheat yields after fallow. No-till and continuous cropping improve soil health and land productivity. This case study shows that fallow is not necessary for successful cropping in this dry region.

Technical Abstract: Producers in the Great Plains have use fallow to adjust for inconsistent and often, inadequate rainfall. The prevalent rotation in this region is winter wheat-fallow. Fallow, however, is damaging to soil health. No-till practices have enabled producers to include more crops in the rotation. This case study assesses crop performance in a continuous cropping rotation in western Nebraska, where precipitation ranges from 13-15 inches a year. Winter wheat yields increased across time due to improved soil health, and are higher in wheat after fallow. Yield variability was minimized by improved soil health. Land productivity, based on annualized yields, was 2.5 times higher in continuous cropping. Principles related to successful cropping are 1) preserving crop residue on the soil surface, 2) designing rotations to include a diversity of crops, and 3) including high-residue crops such as winter wheat and corn in the rotation.