Whole-farm Low/Reduced Input Farming Systems and Educational Program
Most small farmers are producing only one or two major enterprises, without choosing among efficient and profitable alternatives. Most farmers fail to take the time to analyze the potential profitability that can be gained through adoption of low/reduced input agricultural concepts. There exists a need for a comprehensive resource management program designed to address these issues in which the generated data are documented through research/demonstration, in a realistic production situation, i.e., on the farm.
This project will consist of a coordinated multi-agency effort in providing educational and technical assistance to Texas farmers through the implementation to whole-farm low- or reduced-input agricultural research and demonstrations, both on the Prairie View A & M campus and within two hundred miles of campus through field days, seminars, staff training and clientele workshops.
This project will include comprehensive investigations into reducing farmer reliance on off-farm purchased inputs, thereby minimizing environmental impacts, while maintaining productivity through soil management, conservation and utilization of natural resources in improved farming systems.
Agronomic and Horticultural Component
Wheat, oats and rye in combination with watermelons were used in this study to evaluate windbreak, allelopathic effects, soil diseases and weed control. By screening and selecting crops for their control and/or resistance to primary pests would limit pesticide applications, thus reducing off-farm purchased inputs. Results from these studies indicate that there was no measurable effect of allelochemicals on melon development and weed suppression. Variables tested showed no differences except in one instance where the number of melons significantly exceeded that of the control. The use of fertilizer was the same as that under conventional usage, except in combination with clover. In the latter, fertilizer rates were reduced. No pesticides were used to control weed, disease and insect pests in the melons grown under wheat, oats and rye treatments. No cultivation took place after seedbed preparation except in the control plots. Yields at one low input site were lower than what is normally expected. This reduction in yield was not attributed to low input practices, but to a large number of pollinators being mixed in with the plants (seedless watermelons) in each plot. Reduced pesticide applications and reduced tillage operations, and multiple use of plots produced a corresponding reduction in off-farm purchased items and an increase in savings.
Wildlife and Fisheries Component
Several low input sustainable agriculture projects relative to wildlife and fisheries were evaluated. Since many small landowners own or control numerous farm ponds and timberland, several demonstrations were established in order to depict low inputs production opportunities to produce fish for increased farm nutrition and income and to manage game species for increased income through leasing.
Cage catfish demonstrations were established to show how landowners wish farm pond or reservoir resources that were not suitable for fish production and harvest by conventional methods could raise fish. In addition to cage production, pond catfish production demonstrations were also established.
Channel catfish production in existing farm ponds is an excellent low input technique for increasing farm recreation, nutritional and income. Landowners with ponds that are harvestable by seining are encouraged to consider the use of these underutilized resources for catfish production to provide an additional source of income from their farms.