Agriculture is often associated with nitrate leaching into water bodies. Planting winter cover crops has been identified as one solution to reduce nitrate leaching and other agricultural related water issues. However, the adoption rate of cover crops in the Upper Midwest is low over many years due to a lack of economic incentives. One alternative solution is to double crop one economically viable winter annual crop and a spring crop in the same year. Here we introduce a double cropping system between a winter annual, winter barley, and a summer annual, short-season soybean to the Upper Midwest. Many end-users of barley, including malsters and brewers, have indicated strong desire in sourcing locally grown malting barley in the Upper Midwest. Sourcing locally grown barley reduces transportation costs and the shipping time for local malsters and brewers. Although the barley end-use market continues to expand, production of barley in Minnesota has declined from 900,000 acres per year in 1980 to just 90,000 acres today. Therefore, with a new barley production market fueled by the local brewing industry, researchers at the University of Minnesota (UMN) are working to develop an economically viable winter barley-soybean double cropping system. As a winter annual, winter barley provides numerous agroecosystem services, and diversified income to growers in addition to soybeans. Currently, the UMN winter barley-breeding program has developed several lines exhibiting improved winter hardiness for the growing conditions in the Upper Midwest. Winter barley matures around the end of June, and a short-season soybean variety will immediately be planted after the harvest of winter barley. In addition, a new project funded by Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is investigating the breeding of winter barley and soybean in a dual- cropping system optimized for productivity in Minnesota. “Assessing agroecosystem services and end-use malting quality of winter barley in a soybean-winter barley double cropping system in the Upper Midwest” would extend that work to characterize nitrate utilization, biomass accumulation, and end-use malting quality in a winter barley- soybean double cropping system.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project will provide multiple learning and action outcomes. The major learning outcome of this project is to gain a better understanding of the agroecosystem and malting quality impacts of winter barley utilized in a double cropping system with soybeans. Our goal is to make both growers and end-users aware of the issues surrounding mono-cropping production and its potential impact on nutrient leaching. Research findings will be packaged into education and outreach activities with express goals to raise awareness about plants on the landscape with impacts to water quality. The main action objective of this project is to add agroecosystem and end-use malting value to the winter barley-soybean double cropping system, and promote adoption of winter barley as a new winter annual in rotation with soybean in a double cropping scenario to growers and end-users.