Sheep Grazing in Potato Production Systems

Project Overview

FW19-347
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $16,300.00
Projected End Date: 03/01/2021
Grant Recipient: Harmony Fields
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jessica Gigot
Harmony Fields

Commodities

  • Agronomic: potatoes
  • Animals: sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, grazing management
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Summary:

    Potato production is a dominant sector of agriculture in northwestern Washington. In Skagit County potatoes are grown on 12,000 acres and the average yield is 20-25 tons/acre. Since potatoes have a high impact on soil nutrition and organic matter, soil quality has become an important priority for potatoes farmers in this area. Arable land is limited in northwestern Washington and land sharing is a common practice in Skagit County. However, it is often difficult for potato farmers to find viable rotation crops based on the extensive amount of acreage they occupy.

    Harmony Fields, LLC is an expanding sheep creamery and organic herb farm based in Bow, WA. Fifty percent of this operation’s land is rented from a neighboring potato farm. Harmony Fields is interested in increasing pasture access for their animals over time and require more land each year. It had been well documented that livestock rotations in crop production systems can have positive effects on the soil across farm scale and production type. Also, compost and manure additions can have varying effects on potato quality and disease. More information is needed to better understand the impact of small ruminant grazing rotations in potato production systems.

    This project would investigate the consequence of integrating sheep grazing in a potato rotation system by investigating how pasture and sheep manure inputs affect soil-borne tuber disease incidence and severity and soil organic matter quality and nutrition. The project would also document how larger, more established farms can engage with smaller, first generation farms in a relationship that is mutually beneficial.

    Project objectives:

    OBJECTIVES

    1. Investigate the influence of sheep grazing on potato and soil quality.
    2. Determine optimal pasture species diversity and access for dairy sheep health in northwestern WA.
    3. Distribute information to regional and national producers.
    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.