Using Crop Diversity in No-till and Organic Systems to Reduce Inputs and Increase Profits and Sustainability in the Northern Plains

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $157,888.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $21,696.00
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, canola, wheat
  • Vegetables: lentils


  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, fallow, no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: cultural control, integrated pest management, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter


    A major deterrent to adopting no-till or organic crop production in the Northern Great Plains is concern about weed management problems during the transition from conventional systems and moisture conservation associated with crops as alternatives to fallow. We conducted plot experiments and farm comparisons and found that productivity was reduced in diversified no-till and organic systems, but weed populations were discouraged and costs of inputs reduced in the alternative systems. Net returns were greatest on average for the organic system with organic price premiums, and the no-till reduced-input systems were similar to conventional systems.

    Project objectives:

    1. 1. Understand weed dynamics to predict species shifts within organic and no-till production systems.
      2. Determine crop performance and water use efficiency within organic and no-till systems.
      3. Quantify input levels and costs for organic and no-till systems, including both purchased and operator supplied inputs.
      4. Quantify profitability (net return) of organic and no-till systems.
      5. Educate producers on potential benefits of organic and no-till systems through dissemination of research results.
    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.