- Agronomic: barley, flax, peas (field, cowpeas), wheat
- Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Production Systems: dryland farming
The integration of cover crops is gaining popularity with producers as a way to improve soil health, minimize inputs and create more resilient agricultural systems. While cover cropping is gaining attention nationally, only a handful of producers in the Palouse region of the inland Pacific Northwest are experimenting with cover crops due to a lack of regionally specific research and resources. To address this need, Lester Wolf Farms INC., the Palouse Conservation District and local Natural Resource Conservation Service staff will work together to develop an economically sustainable cropping system, integrating cover crops in the high precipitation zone of the Palouse region to promote soil health, and eventually reduce synthetic fertilizers and herbicides. This three year project will experiment with fall seeded cover crops in the traditional winter wheat-spring wheat-pulse rotation. A block design containing six strips, three business-as-usual strips (control) and three cover crop strips (treatment), will be set up in all three of the traditional crops planted, resulting in 3 blocks and 18 strips. Soil physical and chemical data will be collected in each strip along with crop yields and farm level inputs to calculate relative profitability. Results will be shared through field tours, stakeholder workshops, fact sheets, a peer reviewed article and a video. Expected outcomes include: a reduction in glyphosate application; information on cover crops as a weed management tool; information on cover crop mixes, seeding rates and the support of cover crop seed vendors and consultants and; increased nitrogen fixation resulting in lower nitrogen inputs.
Project objectives from proposal:
The overarching goal of this study is to develop an economically sustainable cropping system that will integrate cover crops with cash crops in the high precipitation zone of the Palouse to promote soil health, and eventually reduce or eliminate synthetic fertilizers and herbicides.
This goal will be accomplished through the following objectives:
- Assess the effects of successfully established fall and spring cover crop mixes on weed pressure and key chemical and biological indicators of soil health.
- Evaluate and compare the economic returns of the selected cover crop mixes vs. business-as-usual (no cover crops) in the high precipitation zone of the Palouse.
- Develop and disseminate management recommendations for farmers based on these results through field tours, stakeholder workshops, fact sheets, a peer reviewed article and a video featuring the project that highlights successes, failures and recommendations for new adopters.