Increasing Crop Water Use Efficiency in Advanced No-Till Systems

2004 Annual Report for SW02-005

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $22,980.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $38,600.00
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Perry Miller
Montana State University

Increasing Crop Water Use Efficiency in Advanced No-Till Systems


Winter pulse agronomy experiments using no-till techniques were conducted at Amsterdam, MT, 2002 - 2003. In 2004 winter pulse planting failed completely due to abnormally dry fall soil conditions that prevented germination, and so trials were re-established in September 2004 for data collection in 2005. Seeding date and seeding rate were more critical factors than stubble height for winter pulse production. Winter pea and lentil yields were competitive with, but not superior to, standard spring types. However, winter types appear superior to spring types for pea forage production.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1) Quantify effect of crop residue management on crop-available water, winter crop survival, and stubble microclimate effects.
2) Compare growth, productivity, and crop water-use efficiency of spring vs. winter crop growth habits.
3) Extend new knowledge about residue management and crop rotations to farmers, industry reps, and research colleagues.


Two years of research data are complete. Unusually dry soil conditions during fall 2003 prevented seed germination and resulted in complete stand failure of all winter pulse plots. Thus, we are repeating the winter pea forage trial for 2005 because forage potential has been the most promising aspect of winter pulse production in Montana.

Accomplishments to date can be highlighted as the following conclusions:
1) Seeding rates for white-flowered winter lentil or pea should be 50% greater than that for spring types until methods promoting winter survival equal to pigmented types are discovered.
2) Tall stubble (30-35 cm) can provide a yield advantage over short stubble (10 cm) but is not critical for winter survival.
3) Seeding date should not be delayed past mid-September and is a more important decision than stubble height.
4) Grain yields of winter pea and lentil were lower than or equal to spring controls.
5) (preliminary) Forage yield and quality of winter pea was superior, especially for the pigmented ‘Austrian’ type.
6) (preliminary) Austrian winter pea had a large seed yield advantage compared with a pigmented spring type.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The impact of this research is occurring in an unexpected manner. We demonstrated winter survival is reliable in our region as long as optimal seeding date and rate are used. Although yield results have been disappointing, there have been positive impacts in three unexpected ways.

1) There is a significant market for Austrian winter pea seed in Montana grown as a spring crop with low yield potential compared with spring cultivars. Producers are experimenting with fall seeding to increase yield of Austrian winter pea.
2) This research has been presented in front of numerous farmer and ag professional audiences, who have seen the early growth pattern of winter pea as a strong fit for annual forage production. Research efforts have been expanded to address both the issues above.
3) Montana is the #1 producer of organic wheat, but sustaining soil N levels has been difficult to achieve in low rainfall environments. Organic growers have become interested in the potential for winter pea to provide a more timely green manure option that is more effective than spring pea. We have new research efforts underway to address their questions about timing and method of removal.

So, in the typical sense for productive research, this current project has raised more questions than it's answered.