Establishing a participatory research network for drought-tolerant corn production in the Pacific Northwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2021: $74,990.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G315-21-W8614
Grant Recipients: Oregon State University; Dry Farming Institute; Three Sisters Nixtamal
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Lucas Nebert
Oregon State University
Amy Garrett
Oregon State University Small Farms Extension
James Myers
Oregon State University
Dr. Lucas Nebert
Oregon State University

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, drought tolerance, water management

    Proposal abstract:

    The Western United States is projected to be increasingly impacted by severe drought in the coming decades, so our agricultural production systems must adapt by limiting over-reliance on unsustainable irrigation practices. Dry farming is a method of producing crops without irrigation through the arid growing season, by accessing soil moisture retained from the wet season, through soil water conservation practices and using appropriate crop varieties. 

    The Oregon State University (OSU) Dry Farming Project (Corvallis, OR) and eleven participating producers across Oregon and Washington will work together to establish a participatory research network for sustainable corn production in the Pacific Northwest. Building upon drought tolerant corn research conducted by the OSU Dry Farming Project, this new research network strives to provide the Pacific Northwest public with greater access to diverse corn varieties suitable for our region, and help ensure that local production of this valuable staple crop is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

    By the end of the year, our team will produce: (i) seed for an improved, drought-tolerant selection of Open Oak Party Mix dent corn (ii) evaluations for Oaxacan Green dent corn and Dakota Black popcorn breeding lines, (iii) a cost-benefit analysis of dry farmed vs. irrigated corn production (iv) a preliminary assessment of how no-till and cover cropping methods affect dry farming success, and (v) establish a research network for drought tolerant corn production that connects producers with consumers, culinary experts, breeders and seed stewards in the Pacific Northwest region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objectives

    1. Evaluate the dry farmed performance of three field corn varieties across multiple sites in Oregon and Washington
    2. Advance ongoing breeding efforts to improve the drought tolerance and culinary quality of select corn varieties
    3. Compare dry farmed versus irrigated corn production, including costs and benefits associated with water inputs, labor, and yield
    4. Test how no-till soil conservation methods impact dry farmed corn yield, soil water retention, and soil health measures

    Educational Objectives

    1. Facilitate an educational exchange between agricultural professionals, producers, and farming-based organizations, focused on sustainable corn production in the PNW
    2. Connect corn producers with culinary experts and consumers to expand marketing potential of dry farmed corn
    3. Establish a formal participatory research network that can be built upon in future years
    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.