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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Pullman, Washington » Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #343341

Research Project: Improving Air Quality, Soil Health and Nutrient Use Efficiency to Increase Northwest Agroecosystem Performance

Location: Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research

Title: Rotational diversification and intensification

item KIRBY, ELIZABETH - Washington State University
item PAN, WILLIAM - Washington State University
item Huggins, David
item PAINTER, KATHLEEN - University Of Idaho
item BISTA, PRAKRITI - Oregon State University

Submitted to: WSU Extension Bulletin
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2017
Publication Date: 5/1/2017
Citation: Kirby, E., Pan, W., Huggins, D.R., Painter, K., Bista, P. 2017. Rotational diversification and intensification. WSU Extension Bulletin "Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest." pp. 163-236.

Interpretive Summary: Wheat has been the dominant crop in the inland PNW dryland region since land was first broken out of native bunchgrass and sagebrush. Cool season small grain cereals are well-suited to the region and the development and adoption of locally adapted, semi-dwarf varieties along with access to chemical fertilizers and pesticides have made it possible to grow wheat profitably for long periods. However, intensive tillage and fallow-based production have contributed to degraded soil health and declining productivity. Growers are increasingly interested in rotational diversification with alternate crops and intensification strategies such as fallow replacement, increased cropping with alternate winter crops, and cover cropping. These strategies target improved long-term productivity and more flexible adaptation to ongoing and predicted climate change.

Technical Abstract: Diversification and intensification of inland Pacific Northwest (PNW) dryland cereal cropping systems can present win-win scenarios that deliver short and long-term benefits for producers and the environment, stabilizing profit and increasing adaptability to and mitigation of climate change. Improving diversity, or reducing fallow, can enhance current farm productivity and income levels, pest management, soil structure, and water infiltration. Alternating oilseeds and grain legumes, in rotation with cereals, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve nitrogen cycling; replacing fallow with crops can increase straw residues and the potential for carbon sequestration. Growers seek reliable, site-specific information on the management and potential of alternative cash crops and cover crops. Recent studies help to interpret the agronomic and economic feasibility of alternative cropping systems as well as understanding their role in potential climate change adaptation and mitigation.