Changing Meadowfoam Planting Dates and Planting Method to Reduce Input Costs, Pest Pressure, and Increase Yields.
For the 2004-05 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.
In 2003-04 two straw management components were added to the no-till planting method and date comparisons: 1) planting into a full-straw-load versus straw-baled-off, 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 comparisons were either small or not significant.
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.) Because of grower interest in the success of our test planting into an annual ryegrass field with a full-straw-load, 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) versus the producers’ current grain drill (Great Plains) comparison. Other than the loss of one farm-scale trial site the first year, this objective was successfully completed.
2) Determine if weed populations are lower in late-planted no-till and/or broadcast meadowfoam. Weed control for the subsequent grass seed crop is a significant reason many growers incorporate meadowfoam production into their cropping system. This is particularly true for grass weeds that cannot be controlled by the herbicides available in the grass seed production system.
3) Determine if meadowfoam fly pest pressure is less in late-planted treatments. The adult fly enters the field at about the time the crop emerges and goes through several generations; populations peak in April-May in unsprayed fields. Delaying the initial infestation may reduce insect damage and insecticide use.
4) 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) Document grower assessment of the benefits of the new planting times and methods on workloads and work distribution. Meadowfoam is planted later in the fall than grass seed and harvested earlier in the summer. Thus the major time and machinery inputs into the meadowfoam crop do not directly compete with the grower’s grass seed production workload. Does meadowfoam provide greater benefits in this regard compared to other potential alternative rotational crops such as wheat or oats? The assessment questionnaire, developed in conjunction with OMG (Meadowfoam Oil Seed Growers), is due back from growers by mid December.
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) Compare the effectiveness of four methods of information outreach to the larger OMG membership (meadowfoam growers) using: a) intensive interactions with our grower-collaborators; b) interactions with other individual growers or small groups at the study sites; c) a presentation at the OMG annual Fall meeting; d) articles in the OMG newsletter.
Objective 1 – Yields: For the most part, we are reporting just the farm-scale results here. The small-plot study confirms these results; if reported, they are identified as such. Oil content data are still being analyzed.
Planting Date: At Sayer Farms (Sayer) all four December-planted entries had higher absolute seed yields than the November-planted entries (Table 1). Averaged over the other treatments, the December-planted entries had higher yields than the November entries, but only by 88 kg/ha. The low soil pH in this field restricted plant growth, and probably accounts for the lower than typical yields across all treatments. It conceivably could have affected the treatment results.
The winter water saturated, and often flooded, field at Kizer and Sons Farm (Kizer), is representative of the heavier soils on the floor of the south Willamette Valley. The poor germination and high plant mortality of the seedlings in the December-planted treatments showed that December plantings are not feasible in soils that have standing water for much of the winter. There was some apparent plant mortality in the November-planted entries, but it was not excessive. High soil nitrogen carry over from the preceding crop resulted in excessive plant growth and lodging. This excessive growth, combined with limited honeybee activity from poor quality hives, likely reduced yields at Kizer.
Broadcast Seedings: In small plot trials, mid November and early December broadcast seedings have given similar or higher yields compared to drilled entries, but poor seed distribution using farm-scale equipment can reduce yields (2002-03 results). At Sayer the December broadcast entry, using an Orbit air fertilizer spreader, had the lowest seed yield of the December-planted entries, but was not significantly different (Table 1). Ken Sayer’s own unreplicated broadcast entries had seed yields comparable to the highest replicated drilled plots, showing the potential for broadcast seedings. In saturated soils, late fall broadcast seedings on top of a full-straw-load improved plant establishment, and increased yields, compared to no-till drill planting on the same date (Kizer small-plot trial).
Annual Ryegrass Full-straw-loads: At Sayer, straw-baled-off plots averaged over the 2 seeding dates had higher yields than the full-straw plots, but only by 56 kg/ha (Table 1). There were no differences between full-straw and straw-baled-off plots at Kizer (Table 1). Planting into a full-straw-load with grain drills (Great Plains) versus a John Deere no-till planter, resulted in similar seed yields at both Sayer and Kizer.
These minimal differences in seed yield among treatments at Sayer are generally reflected in the lack of differences in the meadowfoam plant counts among the entries (Table 1). The November-planted entries had slightly higher plant counts by 17.8 plants/m2 (P=0.0453), although the seed yields were lower. Because of the poor germination and stand loss due to flooding, the December-planted entries at Kizer had lower plant counts than the November entries by 171.0 plants/m2 (P=0.0001) (Table1). There were no differences in the meadowfoam counts for the three November-planted entries at Kizer. This paralleled the seed yield results.
Objective 2 – Weed Control. At Sayer there were no significant differences among entry means for annual ryegrass, annual bluegrass, and broadleaf weeds, all P-values were greater than 0.3 (Table 2). The variability within entries was large; the CVs from the GLM analyses were 50.8, 41.0, 46.7, for the three weed categories, respectively. Comparisons between the November and December planting dates, full-straw-load versus straw-baled-off, and drill types, revealed only one significant relationship; there was more volunteer annual ryegrass in the full-straw-load plots (P<0.0454). The interactions between Straw and Date, and Drill and Date, were not significant for any of the 3 weed categories. Correlation analysis of the count data (no./m2) for annual ryegrass, annual bluegrass, and broadleaf, and the total weed population, against the seed yields, found no significant relationships. The P-values of all the correlations were 0.5912 or higher. At Kizer the December-planted entries suffered severe stand loss and volunteer annual ryegrass, and toad rush covered from 30 to 80% of the plot area. These plots were eliminated from the study. There were no differences in either annual ryegrass or toad rush populations among the three November-planted entries (Table 2). Weed growth occurred primarily in lower areas (depressions of a few inches or less) that suffered stand loss due to flooded conditions. These low-lying areas were random with respect to the November-planted entries, and their influence overshadowed any potential treatment difference. There was a negative correlation between the counts of toad rush and seed yield (Pearson CC = -0.6797, P = 0.0122). This relationship is more a reflection of toad rush growing in areas of meadowfoam stand loss than a negative impact of toad rush on meadowfoam growth. There was no correlation between seed yield and annual ryegrass counts (P = 0.7754). The analysis of weed population in small plot trials indicates that factors that delay meadowfoam canopy closure after the late winter herbicide applications will result in increased weed populations of spring germinating weeds. Objective 3 – Meadowfoam fly pest pressure. Lack of commercial meadowfoam production during the two years of the study (to allow the grower-industry to match demand with supply) resulted in low MFF populations throughout the valley, and thus inconclusive results for this objective. Objective 4 – Grower assessment of the benefits of improved weed control. The assessment questionnaire, developed in conjunction with OMG organization (Meadowfoam Oil Seed Growers), is due back from growers by mid December. Objective 5 – Grower assessment of the benefits of the new planting timing and methods on workloads and work distribution. (Same as Objective 4) Objective 6. We modified the Meadowfoam Enterprise Budget Spreadsheet to incorporate no-till seeding operations. Labor, machinery, and fixed-cost savings were calculated by dropping specific tillage operations, adding a glyphosate application for one scenario, while using current fuel and labor costs. The calculated savings when switching to no-till from the prior establishment method were for: chisel plowing (after a perennial grass seed crop) $20.01 /acre; disking and rolling (after a perennial grass seed crop) $16.88/acre; moldboard plowing (after annual ryegrass – to bury straw) $26.83/acre. If a producer were to broadcast-seed rather than drill the seed, the additional savings would be $14.28/ acre. If we get a good sample of grower estimates of cost savings from factors such as improved weed control we will incorporate these elements into our economic analysis. Any such estimates are due to be received by mid December 2004. Objective 7 – Compare the effectiveness of four methods of information outreach. Growers have been exposed to the new establishment methods through two field days (plus 1 that preceded this WSARE grant), meetings with small groups of growers at the study sites, a presentation for growers interested in no-till seedings, comments by the OMG Production Manager at the OMG annual meeting. The questionnaire that seeks to elucidate the relationship between attendance at these events and a grower’s willingness to experiment with these new establishment methods is due back from the growers by mid December 2004.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Meadowfoam producers have adapted the new establishment practices much more quickly than anticipated. For the 2004-05 production year, two-thirds of the commercial meadowfoam acreage was seeded no-till, either drilled or broadcast. The high cost of fuel this fall may have hastened this quick change. We suspect that growers who view meadowfoam as a key part of their larger grass seed cropping system are the ones doing most of the planting. It may also be that the producer-run-trials, a key component of the WSARE program, were more convincing than the typical small-plot trials of university researchers. Our grower questionnaire should elucidate some of these issues.
A worry that arises from this quick adoption of the new establishment practices is that many of these plantings are going into rotations and field conditions with which we have no experience. We have had success with the new establishment methods in perennial and annual ryegrass with the straw-baled-off, and in annual ryegrass with a full-straw-load. However growers are planting no-till meadowfoam after such crops as wheat and clover. A follow-up WSARE grant (currently in review) will give producers the chance to explore some of these other rotations under our experienced supervision. The producers are currently on their own with these situations this year. Another worry arises from the fact that the timing of the herbicide applications in relation to planting date is critical for adequate fall weed control. In addition, planting no-till at the traditional mid October planting date, which some growers are doing, can place no-till seedings at risk for weed problems compared to planting in mid November. Ideally, before the spread of no-till establishment practices throughout the industry, we would have liked to have had more producers with experience growing no-till meadowfoam under our supervision to serve as information sources for growers new to these practices.
A three-month no-cost extension is being used to monitor this year’s no-till seedings and to compile and interpret the producer questionnaire. The final report, due at the termination of this extension, will address impacts and contributions/outcomes in more detail.
Oregon State University
Dept. of Crop and Soil Science
Oregon State Univ.
Corvallis, OR 97331-3002
Office Phone: 5417406812