- Agronomic: general oil crops
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Pest Management: cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, weed ecology
- Production Systems: holistic management
Meadowfoam is a new oil seed crop and provides a key diversification component opportunity in the grass seed cropping systems of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. We explored late planting, no-till and broadcast seeding as means of reducing meadowfoam production costs and maximize the farm system benefits of this rotation. Three farm-scale and two-small plot trials of no-till and broadcast-planted treatments on four dates documented that no-till or broadcast planting of meadowfoam as late as early December continues to show promise as viable option while offering added benefits.
A 2002-03 experimental no-till planting into an annual ryegrass full-straw load showed such promise for reducing costs that our 2003-04 cooperators chose to concentrate their efforts in this new direction. To accommodate them we reduced the planting dates to mid November and early December. Two straw management components were added to the no-till planting method and date comparisons: 1) planting into full-straw-load versus straw-baled-off plots, and 2) a no-till drill (John Deere) versus the producers' current grain drills (Great Plains) comparison. Except for the site where the December plantings were lost to excessive flooding, the seed yield differences between the planting date, straw management, and drill type treatments were either small or not significant. Overall, the mid November planting date appeared to give the best compromise for yield and weed control. The early December seedings were a viable planting option. Under “average” conditions drilled entries slightly out-yielded broadcast entries, but these differences were often not significant. However when soils were saturated/flooded, or high levels of herbicide residues were suspected, broadcast entries had higher yields than drilled entries. Factors unique to each trial influenced the exact ranking of the entries/treatments.
For the 2004-05 meadowfoam production year, two-thirds of the commercial meadowfoam acreage was seeded no-till. This is a result of the favorable comparison of these new seeding practices with traditional planting, and the cost savings associated with no-till operations. However, several growers planted into crop rotations or at times where no previous work had been done or where less than optimal results had been achieved. A follow-up Western SARE grant will be used to work with additional growers, creating a core of growers knowledgeable about the new establishment practices who can serve as a knowledge source for interested growers.
1) Two farm-scale and one small-plot trial to be planted each year to determine if seed and oil yields of late-planted no-till and broadcast meadowfoam compare to yields from traditional tilled or disked fields planted in mid October. (Perennial grass seed straw residue is typically baled for sale prior to planting meadowfoam.) In farm-scale trials no-till planting dates were: mid October (traditional), mid November, and the first week of December. Broadcast dates were the last two no-till dates, plus the third week of December. Additional planting dates, and treatments, were added to the small-plot trials to extend the range of conditions tested. The meadowfoam variety Starlight was used in all experiments.
Because of grower interest in the success of our test planting into an annual ryegrass field with a full-straw-load, in 2003-04 we reduced the number of planting dates to mid November and early December and added two straw management components: 1) planting into a full-straw-load versus straw-baled-off, and 2) a no-till drill (John Deere 1560) versus the producer's current grain drill (Great Plains Solid Stand 13) comparison. In addition there was a December broadcast seeding on straw-baled surface. To achieve the desired equally spaced plants, an Orbit Air fertilizer spreader was used to seed the farm-scale broadcast plots. A small-plot paired full-straw-load versus baled-straw experiment, that included 4 planting dates and no-till and broadcast entries, was completed adjacent to the farm-scale trial.
2) Use weed count data to determine if weed populations are lower in late-planted no-till and/or broadcast meadowfoam.
3) Use yellow stick trap data to determine if meadowfoam fly pest pressure is less in late-planted treatments. Delaying the initial infestation may reduce insect damage and insecticide use.
4) Use a grower survey to document grower assessment of the benefits of improved weed control on the subsequent grass seed crop. While many growers consciously use a rotation to meadowfoam to control troublesome weeds, they do not place a specific dollar/a value on this benefit. We will encourage them to attempt to assess the monetary value of any perceived benefits, detriments, or risks.
5) Use a grower survey to document grower assessment of the benefits of the new planting dates and methods on workloads and work distribution. Does meadowfoam provide greater benefits in this regard compared to other potential alternative rotational crops?
6) Document -- using an enterprise budget spreadsheet -- the cost benefits of the lower inputs required for late season no-till and broadcast planting. In addition to the more easily quantified costs and benefits, we will attempt, via objectives 4 and 5, to incorporate, on a more quantitative basis, some of the more qualitative benefits and costs.
7) Use a grower survey to compare the effectiveness of five methods of information outreach to the larger OMG membership (meadowfoam growers): 1) Neighboring growers having success with no-till methods on their farm; 2) Personal interaction with Oregon State University researchers having experience with these methods; 3) Recommendation by the OMG agronomist; 4) Continuation of on-farm trials including communication of trial results; and 5) Field days of on-farm demonstration trials.