Tour of sustainable Small Grain Production in Eastern Washington

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $7,350.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dan Picard
MSU Extension-Pondera County
Jesse Fulbright
Montana State University


  • Agronomic: barley, wheat, hay


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: crop rotation
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, value added
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, cultural control, economic threshold, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    Tour of Sustainable Small Grain Production in Eastern Washington Small grain producers in the Golden Triangle region of central Montana share similar crop pest, conservation and marketing concerns with producers in eastern Washington, as well as a similar climate and production system. The intent of this tour is to increase the ability of Montana State University (MSU) Extension, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and other regional agriculture educators to provide educational outreach about sustainable crop production and marketing methods being implemented by agriculture producers and researchers in eastern Washington that are applicable to our clientele in Montana. Surveys and personal communication with MSU Extension agents demonstrate a need for additional in-field training in sustainable crop and pest management, as well as with innovative marketing concepts to increase and stabilize small grain production income. In order to address this need for in-field education about sustainable agricultural systems, the tour will visit small grain farms and research programs utilizing no-till production methods and crop rotation; discuss sustainable marketing strategies with farmers who are part of the direct-to-consumer grain and flour marketing cooperative, and visit on-farm research trials of sustainable cropping practices and wireworm management as well as visit the leading stripe rust research program. In the Golden Triangle, the incorporation of rotation crops such as legumes or oilseeds into the traditional no-till, crop-chemical fallow rotation is not prevalent. No-till production in Washington has included the successful inclusion of these crops, which increases soil quality and productivity and reduces erosion. The adoption of a sustainable crop production system created an opportunity for a group of farmers in the Davenport, Washington area to develop an innovative, direct-to-consumer marketing cooperative. The strategy developed by the cooperative includes selling the flour at a pre-agreed on price that accounts for the cost of producing the grain in a sustainable manner. Sustainable crop pest management reduces application of toxic pesticides in part by improving understanding of the pests’ biology. Stripe rust, a common foliar disease of wheat and other grasses in the Pacific Northwest, was epidemic in Montana in 2011. Visiting the research program of Dr. Xianming Chen, a leading stripe rust researcher, will give educators a better understanding of stripe rust biology, current management research and how genetic resistance is developed and managed in wheat. Wireworm is a significant pest of both eastern Washington and Montana small grain production. The tour will include visiting on-farm research on wireworm management. Montana tour participants will return with increased knowledge of sustainable farming systems and resources for small grain producers in semi-arid climates. Educators will be expected to include this information in educational programs for their Montana clientele and share it in informal, one-on-one educational opportunities with producers. As dictated by producer interest, on-farm research to demonstrate how Montana clientele can implement appropriate sustainable crop management techniques will be developed. Evaluations will measure the desired outcomes of increased knowledge and ability to provide outreach on sustainable agriculture production as well as program implementation and the use of educational opportunities that reach Montana small-grain producers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Audience: The tour is being conducted to expose Montana agriculture educators to successful sustainable cropping and marketing practices in a similar production system. The intention is this will increase their ability to provide educational outreach in their respective program areas. This budget is based on participation by fourteen participants and will be open to county, reservation and state Extension staff, NRCS staff and other appropriate agriculture educators as space allows. Evaluations will measure the desired outcomes of knowledge gained and increased ability to provide outreach on sustainable agriculture production.
    2. Activities and methods: Montana tour participants will be meeting with Dr. Xianming Chen, Aaron Esser, Karl Kuper and others involved in sustainable agriculture production and touring their programs, farms or demonstrations.
    3. Products: All tour participants will return with a better understanding of sustainable farming systems that include integrated crop disease and insect pest management, crop rotation in no-till small grain production, on-farm research methods and innovative marketing with a farmer cooperative. Participants will also have personal knowledge of a network of agriculture producers and professionals working to improve sustainable small grain production that they can draw on in the future.
    Upon return to Montana, educators will include this new information in educational programs for their clientele, will share it in informal, one-on-one opportunities with producers and will use it to demonstrate how their clientele can sustainably manage crop disease and insect pests; include rotation crops in no-till production; and increase their revenue through innovative marketing. We hope to learn and build from the successes of this educator tour to develop a similar program the following year for producers.
    As a result of this tour, fourteen educators will learn how farmers in eastern Washington have successfully implemented sustainable production and marketing practices and how education and research personnel are assisting in the adoption of sustainable agronomic practices. Those participants will reach an estimated 600 Montana producers with educational programs that incorporate this information.
    Short term outcomes: Tour participants will increase their knowledge of sustainable practices for controlling small grain pests; including rotational crops in no-till small grain production and innovative marketing strategies that create a sustainable farm income.
    Medium term: Tour participants will participate in formal and informal educational opportunities for producers in their respective counties and reservations to demonstrate how sustainable practices could be implemented. Educators in both states will utilize contacts from the tour to share information about successful sustainable practices and research.
    Long term: Tour participants will assist local growers in conducting on-farm research to determine what sustainable production practices are appropriate for Montana farms. Practices found to be effective will be implemented. Educators will also assist growers in developing marketing strategies that support sustainable farm income

    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.