Changing Meadowfoam Planting Dates and Planting Method to Reduce Input Costs, Pest Pressure, and Increase Yields.

Final Report for SW02-052

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $100,726.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $18,813.00
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Gary Jolliff
Oregon State University
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Project Information


Meadowfoam is a new oil seed crop and provides a key diversification component opportunity in the grass seed cropping systems of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. We explored late planting, no-till and broadcast seeding as means of reducing meadowfoam production costs and maximize the farm system benefits of this rotation. Three farm-scale and two-small plot trials of no-till and broadcast-planted treatments on four dates documented that no-till or broadcast planting of meadowfoam as late as early December continues to show promise as viable option while offering added benefits.

A 2002-03 experimental no-till planting into an annual ryegrass full-straw load showed such promise for reducing costs that our 2003-04 cooperators chose to concentrate their efforts in this new direction. To accommodate them we reduced the planting dates to mid November and early December. Two straw management components were added to the no-till planting method and date comparisons: 1) planting into full-straw-load versus straw-baled-off plots, and 2) a no-till drill (John Deere) versus the producers' current grain drills (Great Plains) comparison. Except for the site where the December plantings were lost to excessive flooding, the seed yield differences between the planting date, straw management, and drill type treatments were either small or not significant. Overall, the mid November planting date appeared to give the best compromise for yield and weed control. The early December seedings were a viable planting option. Under “average” conditions drilled entries slightly out-yielded broadcast entries, but these differences were often not significant. However when soils were saturated/flooded, or high levels of herbicide residues were suspected, broadcast entries had higher yields than drilled entries. Factors unique to each trial influenced the exact ranking of the entries/treatments.

For the 2004-05 meadowfoam production year, two-thirds of the commercial meadowfoam acreage was seeded no-till. This is a result of the favorable comparison of these new seeding practices with traditional planting, and the cost savings associated with no-till operations. However, several growers planted into crop rotations or at times where no previous work had been done or where less than optimal results had been achieved. A follow-up Western SARE grant will be used to work with additional growers, creating a core of growers knowledgeable about the new establishment practices who can serve as a knowledge source for interested growers.

Project Objectives:

1) Two farm-scale and one small-plot trial to be planted each year to determine if seed and oil yields of late-planted no-till and broadcast meadowfoam compare to yields from traditional tilled or disked fields planted in mid October. (Perennial grass seed straw residue is typically baled for sale prior to planting meadowfoam.) In farm-scale trials no-till planting dates were: mid October (traditional), mid November, and the first week of December. Broadcast dates were the last two no-till dates, plus the third week of December. Additional planting dates, and treatments, were added to the small-plot trials to extend the range of conditions tested. The meadowfoam variety Starlight was used in all experiments.

Because of grower interest in the success of our test planting into an annual ryegrass field with a full-straw-load, in 2003-04 we reduced the number of planting dates to mid November and early December and added two straw management components: 1) planting into a full-straw-load versus straw-baled-off, and 2) a no-till drill (John Deere 1560) versus the producer's current grain drill (Great Plains Solid Stand 13) comparison. In addition there was a December broadcast seeding on straw-baled surface. To achieve the desired equally spaced plants, an Orbit Air fertilizer spreader was used to seed the farm-scale broadcast plots. A small-plot paired full-straw-load versus baled-straw experiment, that included 4 planting dates and no-till and broadcast entries, was completed adjacent to the farm-scale trial.

2) Use weed count data to determine if weed populations are lower in late-planted no-till and/or broadcast meadowfoam.

3) Use yellow stick trap data to determine if meadowfoam fly pest pressure is less in late-planted treatments. Delaying the initial infestation may reduce insect damage and insecticide use.

4) Use a grower survey to document grower assessment of the benefits of improved weed control on the subsequent grass seed crop. While many growers consciously use a rotation to meadowfoam to control troublesome weeds, they do not place a specific dollar/a value on this benefit. We will encourage them to attempt to assess the monetary value of any perceived benefits, detriments, or risks.

5) Use a grower survey to document grower assessment of the benefits of the new planting dates and methods on workloads and work distribution. Does meadowfoam provide greater benefits in this regard compared to other potential alternative rotational crops?

6) Document -- using an enterprise budget spreadsheet -- the cost benefits of the lower inputs required for late season no-till and broadcast planting. In addition to the more easily quantified costs and benefits, we will attempt, via objectives 4 and 5, to incorporate, on a more quantitative basis, some of the more qualitative benefits and costs.

7) Use a grower survey to compare the effectiveness of five methods of information outreach to the larger OMG membership (meadowfoam growers): 1) Neighboring growers having success with no-till methods on their farm; 2) Personal interaction with Oregon State University researchers having experience with these methods; 3) Recommendation by the OMG agronomist; 4) Continuation of on-farm trials including communication of trial results; and 5) Field days of on-farm demonstration trials.


Meadowfoam (Limnathes alba) is a new oil seed crop domesticated in the mid 1970s and first grown commercially in Oregon in the mid 1980s. Oregon farmers first organized in 1984 to grow meadowfoam and reorganized in 1997. They formed the OMG, the Meadowfoam Oil Seed Growers, which is an open-enrollment cooperative corporation, and Natural Plant Products (NPP), which does the refining, marketing, and shipping of the meadowfoam oil. The oil, which has many potential uses because of its unique chemistry (Miller et al. 1964), is currently primarily used in the cosmetics and personal care products industry.

Meadowfoam is an excellant diversification component in the grass seed cropping system of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It is one of few currently available rotational crops in the winter water-saturated soils on the valley floor that does not have summer irrigation for row crops. Diversifying the system with this new crop allows: 1) enhanced control of weeds, insects and diseases; 2) fields suitable for the production of certified grass seed; and 3) the beneficial redistribution of workloads and machinery demands. Weed control for the subsequent grass seed crop is a primary reason growers incorporate meadowfoam production into their cropping system. Meadowfoam is planted later in the fall than the grass seed crop and harvested earlier in the summer. Thus the major time and machinery inputs into the meadowfoam crop do not directly compete with the grower’s grass seed production workload. This project will facilitate the farmers' incorporating the advantages of growing meadowfoam into their entire farming system.

The current over-production of many commodity crops on a worldwide basis illustrates that simply increasing yields is not necessarily a solution to the current farm crisis. This accentuates the importance of: 1) reducing production costs, 2) maximizing the farming system benefits of growing meadowfoam (weed disease and insect control, work reduction, and workload redistribution), and 3) supporting farmer participation in the value chain of what they produce.

No-till alone reduces the labor, equipment, and fuel consumption costs of conventional tillage. It also minimizes soil erosion from wind and water. The former can be severe, with fine soil particles from late summer tillage operations obscuring visibility in the valley and creating health problems. No-till operations also allow access to fields in late fall that otherwise could not support heavy equipment. Further cost reductions and even later planting dates may be achieved by broadcasting meadowfoam using standard swamp buggy fertilizer spreaders. Delayed no-till planting of meadowfoam will further these tasks from the work associated with planting the grower’s primary crop -- grass seed.

Most meadowfoam is planted following a grass seed crop. This rotation allows the use of grass herbicides to kill weedy grasses whose seed can cause the rejection of the following certified grass seed crop. Those growers who view meadowfoam as a key component in their farm system do so because of its role in their grass seed weed control program. However their choice of herbicides is limited and some weeds, grass, and broadleaf remain difficult to control. Late planting allows fall germinating broadleaf weeds and S-metolachor- and clethodim-resistant grass weeds to be controlled by glyphosate. For December plantings, a grower may realize a cost savings by not having to use S-metolachor. Any grass weeds that sprout subsequent to the pre-emergence glyphosate spray can be controlled by the winter clethodim application.

The one insect pest of meadowfoam is the Meadowfoam Fly (MFF), Scaptomyza apicalis. The larvae feed in shallow tunnels within crown tissue, leaves, and flower buds. Meadowfoam flies are found in the field after the first fall rains, and there are several generations during the growing season. There is no reliable economic injury threshold for this pest, in part because of conflicting results from small-plot and farm-scale trials. The general consensus is that at least one insecticide spray in needed in mid winter to prevent significant yield loss. Delaying planting meadowfoam limits the exposure of the rosette to insect damage prior to the mid-winter application of insecticide and may eliminate the occasional need for an additional early-season insecticide application when fly populations are high.

This project explores the farm system benefits of delayed planting dates and planting methods for growing meadowfoam as well as exploring their effects on pest pressures and yields.


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  • George Hoffman


Materials and methods:

See Objectives/Performance Targets section for a brief description of methods.

Research results and discussion:

Objective 1: Yields. For the most part, we are reporting just the farm-scale results here. Growers are paid by weight of the cleaned seed, so while percent oil content and oil yields are important to the grower cooperative, and the competitive environment of the industry, I will be emphasizing seed yield in this report. There were minimal or no differences in percent oil content between treatments, so differences in oil yields are largely the result of differences in seed yields. The small-plot studies generally confirm these results, and we will report only selected results. In this report, differences in means are considered to be statistically significant at P<0.05. Grower-Executed Farm-Scale Trials 2002-03. We only work with Ioka Farms because of a problem preparing the second site. The three no-till and three broadcast-planted treatments were compared in the farm-equipment-scale trial. No-till and broadcast plantings of meadowfoam as late as early December continued to show promise as economically viable options for meadowfoam growers. There were no statistically significant differences in seed yield (of 1,356 to 1,392 kg/ha) between any of the November and December no-till and broadcast plantings. The October 23 no-till planting date treatment had significantly lower yields (1288 kg/ha) than the other treatments. November plantings had higher yields than the December plantings, and no-till planting out-yielded broadcast planting, but there were no statistical differences between these groups. Typically meadowfoam seed yields for OMG growers have been in the 900 kg/ha range, where suspected yield losses as a result of excessive nitrogen and damage by the meadowfoam fly appear to be common. Excess N caused lodging of all plots at Ioka in 2002-03. Lodging was earlier and more severe the earlier the plots were planted, ranging from 78.5 to 6.7%. Data from previous years give reason to speculate that lodging causes yield loss, and probably was the factor primarily responsible for the lower yields in the October 23 planting. This treatment lodged earlier, and more extensively, than the other treatments. An example of this lodging-associated yield loss is in our meadowfoam experiments at Ioka in 1999-2000, where 60% lodging was estimated to result in a 10% yield loss. The general lack of differences in seed yields are reflected in the minimal differences in meadowfoam plant density. See 2003 Annual Report for details. Under good management and growing conditions seeding rate has to vary by approximately 50% from optimum rates to significantly affect yields. Broadcast planting with the grower drill by pulling the seed drop tubes from the disk openers did not achieve the desired equi-distantly spaced plants. Percent oil content for the six entries ranged from 29.3 to 29.7%, and there were no significant differences. Oil yields ranged from 402.3 to 377.6 kg/ha. There were no statistical differences among entries, nor were there overall planting-date or no-till vs. broadcast treatment differences. 2003-04. Planting Date -- At Sayer Farms, all four December-planted entries had higher absolute seed yields than the November-planted entries. Averaged over the other treatments, the December-planted entries had higher seed yields than the November entries, 1,108 versus 1,020 kg/ha, respectively. The low soil pH in this field restricted plant growth, and probably accounts for the lower than typical yields across all treatments. It conceivably could have affected the treatment results. Percent oil content ranged from 27.6 to 26.5 %, and there were no significant differences between treatments. The seed yield differences between the November and December plantings carried to the oil yield comparisons. The winter water-saturated, and often flooded, field at Kizer and Sons Farm is representative of the heavier soils on the floor of the south Willamette Valley. The poor germination and high plant mortality of the seedlings in the December-planted treatments showed that late fall plantings are not feasible in soils that have standing water for much of the winter. There was some plant mortality in the November-planted entries, but it was not excessive. Average seed yield for the three November-planted entries was 1,342 kg/ha. High soil nitrogen carry-over from the preceding crop (no spring nitrogen fertilizer was used) resulted in excessive meadowfoam growth and lodging. This excessive growth, combined with limited honeybee activity from poor quality hives and bad weather, may have reduced yields at Kizer. As at Sayer, there were no differences in percent oil content, which ranged from 26.1 to 25.4%. Broadcast Seedings -- At Sayer the December broadcast entry had the lowest seed yield of the December planted entries but was not significantly different from the other entries. Ken Sayer’s own unreplicated broadcast entries, using a garden fertilizer spin spreader and a farm-scale fertilizer spin spreader, had seed yields comparable to the highest replicated drilled plots. At Kizer the December broadcast seeding on baled plots suffered extensively from flooding-associated stand loss. Within the full-straw-load treatment of the small-plot experiment, December broadcast seedings improved plant establishment, and increased yields, compared to no-till drill planting on the same date (Kizer small-plot trial). The broadcast seed germinated and started growing within the layer of straw, while the drilled seed had slow germination and poor emergence in the saturated soil. Annual Ryegrass Full-straw-loads -- At Sayer, straw-baled-off plots averaged over the two seeding dates had higher yields than the full-straw plots, 1,099 versus 1,043 kg/ha, respectively. But the difference was only 56 kg/ha. There were no differences between full-straw and straw-baled-off plots at Kizer, 1,339 versus 1,296 kg/ha, respectively. Drill Type -- Planting into a full-straw-load with grain drills (Great Plains), versus a John Deere no-till planter, resulted in similar seed yields at both the Sayer and Kizer. At Sayer average seed yield from the Great Plains drill was 1,049, versus 1,042 kg/ha with the John Deere no-till drill. At Kizer these same comparisons were 1,339 and 1,312 kg/ha, respectively. These minimal differences in seed yield among treatments at Sayer are generally reflected in the lack of differences in the meadowfoam plant counts among the entries. The November-planted entries had slightly higher plant counts by 17.8 plants/m2 (P=0.0453), although the seed yields were lower. Because of the poor germination and stand loss due to flooding, the December-planted entries at Kizer had lower plant counts than the November entries, 52 vs. 224 plants/m2. There were no differences in the meadowfoam counts for the three November-planted entries at Kizer. This paralleled the seed yield results. Yields: Small-plot trials
2002-03, OSU Hyslop experiment station. This trial gave similar results to the Ioka farm-scale studies. Within each of the planting methods, drilled entries (rototilled seed bed in October, no-till in November and December) and broadcast planted entries (October, November, early December, and late December), there were no significant differences in seed yield for the October, November, and early December plantings. The late December broadcast entry had lower yields. Note: The October-planted entries suffered from Select herbicide damage, which may have reduced yields by 4.12% (see 2003 Annual Report). When October seed yields for the two drilled entries were adjusted upward by this amount they did not differ from the November- and December-seeded entries. The same held true within the broadcast teatment.

The drilled entries had lower yields than the broadcast entries, 1,651 and 1,568 kg/ha, respectively. This appeared to be a result of two planting-date-dependent factors that reduced meadowfoam establishment. The October plantings suffered from lack of rain during germination. The November- and December-planted entries had very poor plant establishment between the old perennial ryegrass crown rows. Plants in or adjacent to the old ryegrass crowns established as expected. Circumstantial evidence suggests the poor establishment may have been due to herbicide residue build-up between the crown rows during the four years the field was in perennial ryegrass. We have not seen this between-row effect in growers fields, although lack of meadowfoam establishment in the area of sprayer boom overlap is not unusual.

2003-04, Kizer small plots. For the three no-till drill dates and four broadcast dates experiment, the results from the baled-straw and full-straw treatments were similar. There was a significant interaction between planting date and planting method. The no-till plantings had slightly higher seed yields for the mid October and mid November dates, while the broadcast seeding had much higher yields for the early December broadcast. This was due to the better meadowfoam establishment of the broadcast seed when the soil was water saturated. The late December broadcast had the lowest absolute yields within both of the straw treatments.

Over all entries, the full-straw-load treatment had higher yields compared to the baled-straw treatment, 1,429 and 1,224 kg/ha, respectively. Within planting dates the presence of the full-straw-load resulted in higher yields in the mid November and late December dates and was close to significantly different in the early December date.

Objective 2: Weed Control.
At Ioka Farms, grass weeds were few and controlled by the Select 2EC (Clethodim) application in late winter. The primary weed was Canada thistle, and its patchy abundance was unrelated to the planting treatments. Its distribution and abundance appeared to be related to the presence of rhizomes pre-existing in the field.

At Sayer there were no significant differences among entry means for annual ryegrass, annual bluegrass, and broadleaf weeds; all P-values were greater than 0.3. The variability within entries was large: the CVs from the GLM analyses were 50.8, 41.0, and 46.7 for the three weed categories, respectively. Comparisons between the November and December planting dates, full-straw-load versus straw-baled-off, and drill types, revealed only one significant relationship; there was more volunteer annual ryegrass in the full-straw-load plots (P<0.0454). The interactions between Straw and Date, and Drill and Date, were not significant for any of the three weed categories. Correlation analysis of the count data (no./m2) for annual ryegrass, annual bluegrass, and broadleaf, and the total weed population, against the seed yields, found no significant relationships. The P-values of all the correlations were 0.5912 or higher. At Kizer the December-planted entries suffered severe stand loss, and volunteer annual ryegrass and toad rush (Juncus bufonius L.) covered from 30 to 80% of the plot area. These plots were eliminated from the study. There were no differences in either annual ryegrass or toad rush populations among the three November-planted entries. Weed growth occurred primarily in lower areas (depressions of a few inches or less) that suffered stand loss due to flooded conditions. These low-lying areas were random with respect to the November planted entries, and their influence over-shadowed any potential treatment difference. There was a negative correlation between the counts of toad rush and seed yield (Pearson CC = -0.6797, P = 0.0122). This relationship is more a reflection of toad rush growing in areas of meadowfoam stand loss than a negative impact of toad rush on meadowfoam growth. There was no correlation between seed yield and annual ryegrass counts (P = 0.7754). The analyses of weed population in small-plot trials at Hyslop experiment station and Kizer indicate that factors that delay meadowfoam canopy closure after the late winter herbicide applications will result in increased weed populations of spring-germinating weeds. Objective 3: Meadowfoam fly pest pressure.
Lack of commercial meadowfoam production during the two years of the study (to allow the grower-industry to match demand with supply) resulted in low MFF populations throughout the valley and, thus, inconclusive results for this objective.

Objective 4, 5, and 7: Grower Survey.
Data to complete Objectives 4, 5, and 7 were obtained in conjunction with a 20-question survey distributed to growers in December 2004. This was done with the assistance of the Meadowfoam Oil Seed Growers cooperative.

Survey responses related to the objectives of this project:
Objective 4: Grower assessment of the benefits of a meadowfoam rotation to improved weed control in their subsequent grass seed production. Seventy-three percent of the growers that responded felt that a meadowfoam rotation was either ‘very important’ or ‘moderately important’ for their weed control program in the subsequent grass seed production. Of those that responded, 93% could not put a dollar value on the benefits of improved weed control. Fifty-three percent of the growers felt that the improved weed control that comes from delayed planting would be either ‘very important’ or ‘moderately important’ in making a decision to change planting dates. Eighty-seven percent of the respondents believed that there are additional agronomic benefits, in addition to improved weed control, that arise from a meadowfoam rotation.

Objective 5: Planting meadowfoam no-till in mid November to early December moves the planting workload further from the fall season tasks associated with grass seed production. Eighty-seven percent of the respondents saw this as an advantage in their operation. Forty-seven percent of the respondents said delaying fall planting would reduce their labor costs, but they could not in general put a dollar cost to this advantage. Only 13% felt that delayed planting would significantly conflict with other farm operations/tasks or personal/non-business related plans.

Objective 7: Comparing the effectiveness of five methods of information outreach. We expanded this in the questionnaire, asking the growers directly what influenced their decisions. We asked the growers to rank the activities that would help increase their confidence that the new establishment methods may hold promise for making meadowfoam production more profitable on their farm. The presented choices, and the percent of respondents who ranked them first or second in importance, were: 1) Neighboring growers having success with these methods on their farm (36.7%); 2) Personal interaction with Oregon State University researchers having experience with these methods (15.0%); 3) Recommendation by the OMG agronomist (58.3%); 4) Continuation of on-farm trials including communication of trial results (63.3%); 5) Field-days of on-farm demonstration trials (26.7%); 6) Other -- Please specify (0.0%). These data illustrate that growers are influenced by a diversity of information sources, and highlight the importance of on-farm trials and the role of private/industry consultants.

Objective 6: See Economic Analysis section.

Research conclusions:

Meadowfoam producers have adapted the new establishment practices more quickly than anticipated. For the 2004-05 production year, two-thirds of the commercial meadowfoam acreage was seeded no-till, either drilled or broadcast. The high cost of fuel in fall 2004 may have hastened this quick change. Growers who view meadowfoam as a key part of their larger grass seed cropping system were doing most of the planting. It may also be that the producer-run trials, a key component of the Western SARE program, were more convincing than the typical small-plot trials of university researchers.

Key to the quick adoption of no-till meadowfoam planting practices is that meadowfoam can be planted using regular grain drills. Unless growers have switched to no-till seeding of their grass seed crop, they will need to use their regular grain drill. Results of this study, and earlier work, indicate seeding with a grain drill achieves comparable plant populations and seed yields to seeding with a no-till drill. For most soils in the Willamette Valley, planting with a regular grain drill will require delaying planting until November, after the soil has softened with the early fall rains. This appears to be the most favorable time to plant for best yields and weed control. A second factor speeding adaptation is that, with proper straw preparation, planting into a full straw load is a feasible planting option. These two factors allow a grower to switch to no-till planting with no expenditure for new equipment, and they can achieve immediate cost savings through reduced field preparation costs. Flailing the straw during the summer to allow for settling by fall planting, and small changes to the herbicide application schedule, are the only needed changes when planting no-till.

Participation Summary

Research Outcomes

No research outcomes

Education and Outreach

Participation Summary:

Education and outreach methods and analyses:

Farmer field days at the meadowfoam research sites were held each year. Oregon State University scientists and the growers who conducted the research spoke at these gatherings. Subsequent to the 2004-05 growing season an information meeting was held at Oregon State University for growers and agriculture professionals interested in planting meadowfoam no-till. We also had growers visit the pilot studies where the first no-till data were gathered in 2001. We discussed our objectives, anticipated findings, and results from the experiments with our grower-cooperators throughout the duration of the project.

Much of our outreach to growers was passed on through grower-to-grower contact. In our grower survey 78% of respondents reported discussing the new no-till establishment practices with other growers.

Two formal publications in the reviewed literature are planned.

Education and Outreach Outcomes

Recommendations for education and outreach:

Areas needing additional study

A worry that arises from this quick adoption of the new establishment practices is that many of these plantings are going into rotations and field conditions with which we have no experience. We have had success with the new establishment methods in perennial and annual ryegrass with the straw baled off, and in annual ryegrass with a full-straw load. However growers are planting no-till meadowfoam after such crops as wheat and clover.

The timing of the herbicide applications in relation to planting date is critical for adequate fall weed control. Planting no-till at the traditional mid-October planting date, which some growers are doing, can place no-till seedings at risk for weed problems compared to planting in mid-November. Ideally, before the spread of no-till establishment practices throughout the industry, we would have liked to have had more producers with experience growing no-till meadowfoam under our supervision to serve as information sources for growers new to these practices. A follow-up Western SARE grant will give producers the chance to explore some of these other rotations under our supervision.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.