Producer Driven Education to Improve Bio-Diversity in Semi-arid and High-Plains Cropping Systems

2004 Annual Report for LNC03-222

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $141,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Gary Hergert
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Co-Coordinators:
David Baltensperger
University of Nebraska

Producer Driven Education to Improve Bio-Diversity in Semi-arid and High-Plains Cropping Systems

Summary

First-time producers participated in an incentive program to promote the production of alternative crops, with the potential to improve bio-diversity in semi-arid cropping systems in the High Plains region. A primary program incentive is research/extension based support from university specialists and production/management support from mentor producers. The program has resulted in an increased knowledge base for the production and marketing of alternative crops through informational meetings, workshops, field tours, and the development of printed and electronic materials. In 2004, approximately 2,000 acres of program crops were planted, including brown mustard/canola, sunflowers, chickpeas, forage peas, and perennial grass seed.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Short-term: Increase knowledge of sustainable production practices for alternative crops in the High Plains

Intermediate: 75 producers will have had a successful experience with production of an alternative crop

Long-term: Increase bio-diversity in the region

Accomplishments/Milestones

Short-term objectives:

A core of mentor producers was organized, each with background experience in the production of an alternative crop that has bio-diversity and economic potential in the High Plains. Alternative crops selected for the first year of the project were brown mustard/canola, sunflower, grain/forage pea, specialty millets, perennial grass seed, and chickpeas.

Based on previous production experiences and current research information, mentor producers and university research/extension specialists participated in organizational and informational meetings in order to develop a knowledge base for each alternative crop and help facilitate and empower mentor producers.

In addition to on-site visits with new producers and the sharing of information at various meetings and in-depth workshops, mentor producers and university research/extension specialists highlighted economic/production practices for alternative crops during regional research and production events.

The establishment of an initial, core group of mentor producers, in cooperation with university research/extension specialists, resulted in twenty-two, first-time producers of alternative crops who will serve as invaluable resources for future producers and enhance the knowledge of sustainable production practices in the High Plains.

Many first-time producers, during follow-up visits, indicated that despite the challenges associated with a new crop and crop losses due to a continuing drought, their learning curve for the production of an alternative crop was advanced by one to two years by participation in the project and they remain optimistic about the potential benefits of an alternative crop in their cropping systems.

Intermediate-term objectives:

Perspective mentor producers and first-time producers are currently being identified for participation in the second year of the project, with a goal of an additional twenty-five first-time producers involved in the production of an alternative crop.

Extension circulars, Chickpea Production in the High Plains and Brown Mustard Production, and a NebGuide, Irrigated Production of Warm-Season Grass Seed in the High Plains, were completed by project participants and are available as hard copies or online www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/browse.htm). An alternative crops link to the Purdue University New Crop Resource Online Program and the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute in Missouri is also available via the web page www.panhandle.unl.edu/Personnel/Baltensperger/baltensperger.htm

Regional (multi-state) production manuals for sunflower and brown mustard are currently being developed, as well as production guides for cool-season grasses and grain/forage peas.

A user-friendly, educational website is currently being developed to highlight production of brown mustard in the High Plains as a renewable energy resource in the manufacture of biodiesel.

Long-term objectives:

The accomplishment of long-term objectives will be a direct reflection of the success achieved in addressing short-term and intermediate-term objectives. While not likely to occur during this project, the extension of alternative crops into the region will be carefully monitored. Regardless of how this extension may evolve, the chances for future producers to have a successful experience in producing an alternative crop will be significantly enhanced as a result of an increased knowledge base that incorporates university research and the production experiences/management practices of mentor and first-time producers.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Twenty-two, first-time producers participated in an incentive program that provides research, production/management, and limited financial support for the adoption of alternative crops into regional cropping systems. Approximately 2,000 acres of program crops were planted in 2004, including brown mustard/canola, sunflowers, chickpeas, forage peas, and perennial grass seed.

The visibility and promotion of alternative crops, in regional cropping systems, has significantly increased due to: 1) informational meetings for program crops, 2) producer driven field tours, workshops, and on-site visits, 3) coverage of program events by newspaper, radio, and television, and 4) increased availability of informational materials in hard copy and electronic form.

The development of a supportive network has provided a unique opportunity for first-time producers to directly communicate with researchers and mentor producers about real-time problems in an effective and timely manner.

As the result of a cooperative effort among project participants, an expanded audience of regional producers and agri-business personnel now have the opportunity to access a developing resource base for alternative crops. Currently, extension circulars and production guides, including best management and marketing practices, are available in hard copy and electronic form for chickpea, brown mustard, warm-season grass seed, and Kentucky bluegrass seed.

Project participants are instrumental in providing ongoing research and production support for the development of brown mustard as a regional, renewable energy resource for the manufacture of biodiesel. Biodiesel, derived from oilseed crops, such as brown mustard, has the potential to significantly enhance regional economies, improve air-quality, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Collaborators:

Walter Kielian

First-time producer – sunflower
3479 Road 63 East
Dix, NE 69133
Office Phone: 3086825090
Jessie Agler

First-time producer – chickpea
HC 516, Box 108
Hay Springs, NE 69347
Office Phone: 3082324590
Bert Keller

First-time producer – field & forage peas
R. R. 1, Box 17
Eustis, NE 69028
Office Phone: 3084865653
Bruce Brockmeier

rancher1@actject.net
First-time producer – field peas
Rt. 1, Box 19
Eustis, NE 69028
Office Phone: 3084865656
Rex Peterson

First-time producer – sunflower
1401 600th Road
Gordon, NE 69343
Office Phone: 3082820880
Lon Eisenbarth

First-time producer – spring canola, brown mustard
3395 State Hwy 152
Yoder, WY 82244
Office Phone: 3075327821
Damon Birkhofer

First-time producer – sunflower
3963 Road 20 South
Kimball, NE 69145
Office Phone: 3082357296
Jim Duncan

First-time producer – sunflowers
480 Co. Rd. 62
Hemingford, NE 69348
Office Phone: 3084873625
Mark Watson

garbanzobeanfarmer_mark@hotmail.com
Producer/Mentor – chickpea
1561 Co. Rd. 61
Alliance, NE 69301
Office Phone: 3087628237
Dan Laursen

dlaursen@bbc.net
First-time Producer – camelina
7678 Madison Rd
Alliance, NE 69301
Office Phone: 3084875541
Wayne Crawford

wam@telecomwest.net
First-time Producer – winter canola
7767 Madison Rd.
Alliance, NE 69301
Office Phone: 3087624414
Carl Thomas

ccthomas@actcom.net
Mentor/Producer – perennial grass seed
10038 Co. Rd. 10
Morrill, NE 69358
Office Phone: 3082472096
Robert Harveson

rharveson2@unl.edu
Plant Pathologist
University of Nebraska
4502 Avenue I
Scottsbluff, NE 69361
Office Phone: 3086321239
Ray Yuill

First-time producer – forage peas
1115 Hudson Ave.
Alliance, NE 69301
Office Phone: 3087626396
Brad Hansen

bhansen@bbc.net
Producer/Mentor – Grain/Forage Peas
D & S Hansen Farms
P. O. Box 141
Hemingford, NE 69348
Office Phone: 3087600189
Jim Young, Jr.

camstoblfarms@yahoo.com
First-time producer – chickpea
102 Ridge Rd
Kimball, NE 69145
Office Phone: 3082352006
Mark Kautz

First-time producer – sunflower
110492 Co. Rd. 31
Minatare, NE 69356
Office Phone: 3087831438
William ‘Bill’ Booker

wbooker2@unl.edu
Producer/Mentor – Sunflowers
1956 Road 6
Bushnell, NE 69128-9602
Office Phone: 3086735333
Neal Weyers

First-time producer – chickpea
Weyers Ranch, Inc.
4046 451st Trail
Hay Springs, NE 69347
Office Phone: 3082324491
Drew Lyon

dlyon1@unl.edu
Dryland Cropping Systems Specialist
University of Nebraska
4502 Avenue I
Scottsbluff, NE 69361
Office Phone: 3086321266
Gary Hein

ghein1@unl.edu
Entomologist
University of Nebraska
4502 Avenue I
Scottsbluff, NE 69361
Office Phone: 3086321369
Dennis Bakely

First-time producer – chickpea
HC 77, Box 271
Cody, NE 69211
Office Phone: 6056851331
Leon Kriesel

kcsent@daltontel.net
Producer/Mentor – Speciality millets
Kriesel Certified Seed
4626 Road 111
Gurley, NE 69141
Office Phone: 3088842424
Jay Child

First-time producer – field peas
7823 245th Trail
Gordon, NE 69343
Office Phone: 3082820649
Mike Strasburger

First-time producer – forage peas
1690 330th Trail
Ellsworth, NE 69340
Office Phone: 3082822753
Paul Burgener

pburgener2@unl.edu
Ag Economist
University of Nebraska
4502 Avenue I
Scottsbluff, NE 69361
Office Phone: 3086321241
Steve Sanders

First-time producer – forage peas
R. R. 1, Box 159
Gordon, Ne 69343
Office Phone: 3082821017
Brian Frank

First-time producer – sunflower
4501 East Hwy 30
Kimball, NE 69145
Office Phone: 3082355097
Orval Weyers

First-time producer – chickpea
Weyers Ranch, Inc.
4826 392nd Trail
Hay Springs, NE 69347
Office Phone: 3082324567
Patrick Petersen

First-time producer – spring canola
1401 600th Rd
Gordon, NE 69343
Office Phone: 3082820880
Joe Heiting

Fisrt-time producer – chickpea
5078 460th Lane
Hay Springs, NE 69347
Office Phone: 3086384585
Joe Dolezal

First-time producer – forage peas
7598 370th Trail
Rushville, NE 69360
Office Phone: 3088624206
Richard Van Pelt

First-time producer – spring canola
3585 Road 20
Kimball, NE 69145
Office Phone: 3082352762
Tim Hashman

First-time producer – sunflower
1550 Co. Rd. 63
Alliance, NE 69301
Office Phone: 3087626905
Charles Laif Anderson

First-time producer – spring canola
393 Road 18
Pine Bluffs, WY 82082
Office Phone: 3086735657