This project has two components:
1) A replicated trial using LESA (Low Elevation Spray Application) to monitor water savings and promote water conservation
2) An on-farm demonstration of using cover crops, management intensive grazing (MIG), and no-till to monitor whether yields are maintained for malt barley compared to a conventional system.
- Reduce water-use and water-loss through LESA.
- Maintain comparable barley yields with the incorporation of cover crops, MIG, and no-till.
- Reduce commercial fertilizer input by 30-50%, while maintaining average yields, through the use of cover crops, MIG, and no-till.
- Reduce soil erosion by eliminating bare soil with the use of cover crops.
- Improve wildlife habitat by eliminating winter fallow.
- Achieve an integrated sustainable agriculture system that improves soil health and maintains profits with comparable barley yields and animal weight gain.
Spring 2017: Using a no-till drill, a multi-species cover crop blend will be seeded into the prior year’s barley stubble. This mix was planted on May 11, 2017, (30 lbs hayes forage barley, 14 lbs forage oats, 12 lbs forage peas, 4 lbs common vetch, and 1 lb purple-top turnip. The LESA irrigation system was installed on one-half of the existing pivot equipment, acting as the treatment, and the other half of the pivot will have no LESA, acting as our control. Soil moisture sensors were collected to monitor soil moisture in both sections of the pivot to allow us to compare the irrigation efficiency of LESA. Soil data was collected pre- and post the irrigation season. On June 22, 2017, 150 head of 600 lb heifers started grazing the cover crop mix through a MIG system. One June 28, 2017, 63 more head joined the pack. On July 1, 2017 the second cover crop mix was planted using the no-till drill. This second mix was planted incrementally as the cattle moved around the field. This mix included 12 forage wheat, 2.5 lbs sorghum sudan grass, 2.5 lbs millet, and 1 lb forage radish. The cattle started to do the second round of grazing on the MIG paddocks after July 1, 2017.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Work in progress includes submitting a Poster Presentation abstract for the SARE Our Farm Our Future Conference in 2018. If abstract awarded, Golden will put together a poster presentation on behalf of the project.
Additionally, 3 planned presentations with research results will occur in 2018. Expected number of farmers to reach includes 100, directly.
adopting cover crops
adopting Management Intensive Grazing
adopting water conservation practices
NOTE: This is a 2-year project. Below is a summary of the early first-year results. Year two results will be added in the fall of 2018.
Below is the field layout with examples of daily paddocks.
Soil moisture under LESA irrigation was much improved compared to under regular overhead pivot irrigation.
Below is a link to a handout that was used at the first field-day event.
- Land Size = 148 acres
- Planting was done with a JD 1590 no-till drill on two dates: West side of field May 11th, East side on May 15th
- First planting blend was:
- 30# Hayes forage barley
- 14# Forage Oats
- 12# Forage Peas
- 4# Common Vetch
- 1# Purple-top Turnip
- On June 22nd 150 head of 600# heifers were placed on the first paddock (90,440# total)
- On June 28th an additional 63 head were merged into the herd (42,860# additional – 133,300# total).
- June 29 started grazing 6 – 8 acre paddocks to graze off tops of barley and oats to prevent heading.
- On July 1 the 40 acres in the NW corner was drilled with a warm-season blend of 12# forage wheat, 2.5# sorghum sudan, 2.5# millet, 1# forage radish.
- July 7 – moved back to light grazed areas for 2nd grazing so that we could plant warm-season blend following cattle.
- July 11 – planted 17 acres with new warm season blend: 15# forage wheat, 5# sorghum sudan, 5# millet, 1# forage radish.
- Warm season blend was planted in increments as cattle move around the circle.
- August 24th – 68 head heavy-end shipped at 805lbs/hd, 142 head light-end turned back out at 719lbs/hd.
- August 26th – 41 head added to herd at 617lbs/hd
- Not enough cattle in the early season – should have had 300 head minimum
- Started grazing 5 – 7 days late
- These issues caused us to lose significant forage quality and quantity in mid to late season
- Where grazing was managed correctly we were able to get 4 cycles of grazing.
- Forage blend worked well, but better planting conditions would have increased quantity.
- Warm Season blend was not necessary or profitable
- Will try a fall planted blend next to get an earlier start to grazing – winter wheat, turnips, winter peas.
- Late season forage re-growth was impressive
- Turnips were the “work horse” of the blend
- Water system was the biggest headache – need an electric pump or solar pump system
- Cattle gain was below expectations – poor cattle quality and excess heat.
- 700 “AUM’s” thus far off 148 acres. Will graze residue with cows this fall.
All of the fencing and water system have been removed from the field. In the spring of 2018 this field will be no-till planted into malt barley, and soil testing will be done and fertilizer strip trials will be conducted to determine the impact of the intensive grazing in 2017.
Because this is an innovative project, where we are using multiple sustainable practices in an Idaho farm, MIG, cover crops, and a multiple planting method of cover crops in one growing season, we have learned a ton. With that, what we have learned from this project, will be very valuable to growers who are also looking to do a similar system. Some specific observational data that will be shared with other producers is:
- Optimal species in our cover crop mix
- BMPs for setting a watering system for cattle
- The economics of the second cover crop planting, which was not profitable or needed. This will be useful to growers to know whether a second planting will work in their system, depending on the year, the amount of growing degree days, and the number of cattle
- The cost of the LESA system. The cost becomes very economical compared to the water savings, which were observed on the research site.