- Agronomic: canola, wheat
- Vegetables: peas (culinary)
- Animals: bovine
- Crop Production: catch crops, cover crops, no-till, nutrient cycling
- Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, risk management
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Soil Management: soil microbiology, organic matter
Our lives are dependent on healthy soil. Continuous tillage and monoculture cropping systems coupled with increased demand for water resources among various entities has led to critical sustainability thresholds in semi-arid cropping systems. Adoption of no-till in semi-arid environments of the Southern Great Plains continues to lag behind other parts of the country. Research in the Texas High Plains concluded that cumulative grazing effects in no-till plots reduced soil water storage and depressed wheat and sorghum yields (Baumhardt et al., 2011). However, while no-till crop production may be susceptible to soil compaction, research has also indicated that long-term no-till systems can be less susceptible to compaction than plowed soils due to no-till induced increased soil organic carbon (SOC) concentrations (Thomas et al., 1996; Blanco-Canqui et al., 2009).
Blanco-Canqui et al. (2010) found that continuous cropping systems under no-till management reduced near-surface maximum compaction primarily by increasing SOC. Two potential practices to increase SOC are implementation of off-season cover crops and no-till. Cover crops have been shown as a proven technology that can reduce soil erosion, increase nutrient use efficiency, improve soil physical properties, increase water infiltration into soil, increase soil organic carbon, protect water quality, and aid in weed control. Our research has shown that mixed species cover crop mixes can provide significant biomass in North Texas. While using significant soil moisture during the cover crop growing season, infiltration is enhanced after termination and prior to wheat planting.
The objectives of this proposal are to: 1) evaluate the effect of intensified cropping systems in a predominantly monoculture wheat producing region that will promote soil health and water conservation while maintaining agronomic profitability and environmental sustainability; and 2) determine and disseminate the most effective best management systems that promote economic profitability and environmental sustainability while protecting natural resources. This project will be conducted on farms in the Northern Rolling Plains of Texas. Wichita County, Texas is home to some of the most progressive no-till farmers in the region. We will work closely with the Wichita County Crop Advisory Committee made up of these progressive producers. Two of these producers include James Brockreide and William Lalk. The Brockreide’s and Lalk’s are considered the pioneers of no-till in the region, fully committing to no-till in 1999. Steve Marten is a no-till producer in Archer County. The Marten’s have incorporated canola into there wheat cropping system. These producers have also incorporated warm-season cover crops into their wheat/canola systems, which have been monitored for soil moisture use by the PI of this proposal. Evaluated treatments will include control checks (continuous no-till wheat), cover crop management strategies (species selection, termination timing, and crop rotation (canola/wheat vs. double crop opportunities). Measured parameters will include inputs, crop yield and quality, and soil physical, chemical and biological properties, including key soil health parameters. A complete economic/risk analysis will be conducted using these measured parameters. Information demonstrating the most cost-effective management practices will be disseminated to stakeholders through field days, workshops, and outdoor classroom forums.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Evaluate the effect of intensified cropping systems in a predominantly monoculture wheat producing region that will promote soil health and water conservation while maintaining agronomic profitability and environmental sustainability.
We will have four study locations placed on wheat systems that have been in no-till for 8-16 years. These locations cover three counties, Archer, Wilbarger, and Wichita. The PIs of this proposal met with cooperating producers in October 2015 to discuss research needs and goals. Several questions were raised during discussion; thus, providing numerous research possibilities. The consensus of the farmers was that small plot trials (10 x40 ft) be conducted on each farm. The group felt that this would allow for more questions to be addressed instead of implementing one or two treatments on a larger scale. Based upon a general summary of discussion, research topics included seeding rate of cover crops, termination timing of cover crops, monospecies versus mixed species cover crops, harvesting seed from cover crop and storing seed for planting on own farms, and can a canola/wheat rotation be as effective and sustainable as cover crop implementation?
- Determine and disseminate the most effective best management systems that promote economic profitability and environmental sustainability while protecting natural resources. A complete economic analysis will be conducted using the measured parameters (inputs and outputs) of objective 1. Inputs costs (fertilizer, herbicide, seed costs, etc.) will be recorded along with crop yields (both warm and cool-season when applicable). All PI’s will participate in field days, workshops, and classroom forums to disseminate information. Cooperating producers actively engage and host stakeholders at educational forums. The three cooperating producers were selected due to their progressive actions in their own farming operations, being leaders within their own counties advisory panels and soil and water conservation districts, and respect and following that each has from their peers. Our three cooperating farmers are exceptional and well known in the region and will perhaps be the most influential disseminators. Examples of stakeholders include farmer/ranchers; beekeeper associations, state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and students.