Farmers facilitating the adoption of new meadowfoam establishment practices
Traditionally, meadowfoam is planted in mid-October into a plowed or disked seedbed. The three 2005-06 on-farm establishment methods trials gave a range of results. At Watson planting in mid November into a full straw load resulted in the greatest yields. S-metolachlor was not needed for extended fall grass control. The poorly drained Cersovski field suffered from fall soil water saturation and extensive winter flooding, highlighting the susceptibility of late-planted meadowfoam to these stresses in poorly drained fields. The grass straw residue was not flailed fine enough Kuenzi, illustrating the critical nature of this task following a perennial grass crop.
1) Determine if seed and oil yields of late-planted no-till or broadcast meadowfoam, and full straw load plantings, compare to yields from traditionally planted meadowfoam. We tell our cooperators the agronomic factors of interest, but the growers decide which ones they would like to test on their farms. The exact establishment practices involved in each of the 4 entries on each farm are tailored to the specifics of the field, the farmer’s equipment, and cropping system.
2) Determine if weed and insect pest populations are lower in late-planted meadowfoam. Weed data from 2005-06 are being analyzed. Populations of the host-specific pest, the Drosophilid fly Scaptomyza apicalis, were apparently too low to demonstrate a significant pattern.
3) Document production cost savings from the new establishment methods for each farm. This is done for the 4 entries at each farm trial and was just completed for the 2005-06 trials.
4) Improve producer skills in: a) producing meadowfoam using the new establishment practices, b) managing their nitrogen fertilizer program and meadowfoam fly (MFF) control; and c) economic analysis of production costs and returns.
5) Develop grower educational presentations and materials through collaborations with cooperating meadowfoam producers and OMG (meadowfoam growers association) production manager.
Objective 1 — Yields. In 2005-06 new meadowfoam establishment method trials were run at three farms. Four entries were used at each farm, incorporating components of traditional and late planting dates, broadcast planting, as well as planting into full straw load (FS) or with baled straw removed (BS). The four entries varied at each farm, depending on the interest of the grower and the likelihood of fall field flooding, which can negatively impact the germination and establishment of late-planted meadowfoam. Watson and Kuenzi were planted into killed perennial ryegrass stands; Cersovski had been in annual ryegrass for several years.
Because growers are currently paid by seed weight, rather than the oil yield, this report will concentrate on this parameter. Variation in seed yield as affected by agronomic factors is higher than variation in seed oil content, so this emphasis on seed yield has biological significance.
Several ‘unusual’ factors affected meadowfoam production at the three farms in 2005-06. 1) Mineralizable N in the soil, as measured in mid-winter, did not appear to become available during the time of meadowfoam N uptake, late February through March. This limited meadowfoam growth and yields. 2) Extensive flooding in December and January (½ the annual rainfall in one month) caused usually adequately drained fields to flood. Portions of the Cersovski field in particular were under inches of water for weeks at a time. 3) Problems with the fertilizer spreader that was used to broadcast seed the plots resulted in a 10-20% lower seeding rate. 4) Unusual early December cold temperatures with lows in the high teens for days, conditions known to damage germinating broadcast seedlings, probably reduced plant density.
Seed Yields: Yields are reported in kg/ha. Differences report here are at the P<0.05 level. The Watson field, a hilly, moderately drained field, suffered the least from these effects, and the Nov. 15 no-till into full straw (FS) entry had the highest yields (1520). The Dec. 5 no-till FS (1343), Oct. 13 disked with straw baled off (BS) (1309), and Nov. 17 broadcast FS entry (1283), were not statistically different. At Cersovski, a very poorly drained field on the valley floor, only the Oct. 13 no-till BS entry did not suffer from poor establishment due to water pooling that started in early November. The yields of this entry (1091) and the Oct. 31 no-till FS entry (967) were not statistically different. The Nov. 14 broadcast FS (888) and Nov. 14 no-till FS (884) suffered from poor germination and early survivorship due to early-season flooding. The extreme winter flood resulted in additional plant mortality. In the Nov. 14 planted entries the germination of seed in early spring when flooding subsided, followed by a late harvest, appeared to boost yields higher than expected given the patchy stands. Three problems at Kuenzi’s compromised the value of the results at this site. The straw was not flailed fine enough to settle between the perennial ryegrass crowns by the time of fall planting. The regrowing grass crowns pushed up this straw resulting in poor crown kill by glyphosate and poor survivorship of the germinating meadowfoam. Second, the seeding rate of the mid-October planting was approximately half of the desired 25 lbs/A. While this field is mostly on a slope and well drained, about 1/5 of the site at the foot of the hill suffered from water runoff from the hill and adjacent fields. The highest seed yield was the Nov. 15 no-till FS (1137). The Nov. 15 FS broadcast (954) and Oct. 16 no-till BS (881) were similar, followed by the Oct. 16 no-till FS (758). Meadowfoam Stand Counts: While meadowfoam yields are not particularly sensitive to moderate variation in plant density, factors can affect seeding establishment to the extent that yields decline. At Watson the Oct. 13 disked BS entry had the highest density of meadowfoam (198.8/m2), yet had a lower yield than the Nov. 15 no-till FS, which had a density (151.3/m2). The low yield in the Nov. 15 broadcast FS is probably due to the low density of meadowfoam plants in this entry (93.3/m2). At Cersovski the Oct. 13 no-till BS had the highest meadowfoam density (232.8/m2) because it had established before the flooding started. The densities of the next three entries, Nov. 14 broadcast FS, Nov. 14 no-till FS, and Oct. 31 no-till FS, 148.5, 132.0, and 124.5/m2, respectively, did not differ significantly. This corresponded to the lack of difference in seed yields of these entries, but the ranking of yields and plant density were not the same. The final meadowfoam plant density in these entries was probably different because of the mortality of plants due to flooding subsequent to the density survey, and the germination of seedlings in early spring after the flooding subsided. At Kuenzi the Oct. 16 planted entries were seeded at about ½ the desired rate of 25 lbs per acre. The Nov. 15 no-till FS entry had the highest plant density (132.5/m2), and corresponded to the highest yield. Surprisingly, the entry with the lowest meadowfoam density, the Nov. 15 broadcast FS (40.4/m2), had the second highest yield. Lower plant density, while alleviated to some extent by compensation in increased individual plant growth, opens the stand the weed growth. For the 2006-7 meadowfoam production year, research sites are established at two farms. At one site the practices being tested are mid-October and mid-November planting dates; and full straw load versus baling off the straw. The mid-October baled straw entry was disked to create a traditional meadowfoam-planting seedbed. Differences in slug populations in the different entries are of interest. At the second site the factors being tested are mid-October and mid-November planting, and flailed straw versus chopped straw in a 2 x 2 design. Objective 2. Weed and insect populations. Weed population data from the 2005-06 trials are being analyzed. At Watson the grower’s decision not to use S-metolachlor (Dual Magnum) for extended fall grass control on the mid-November planting extended the potential cost benefits of this practice from just the early-December planting. Populations of the host-specific insect pest, the Drosophilid fly Scaptomyza apicalis, were too low to show a significant pattern related to planting date and method. The low populations are probably primarily due to the fact that most meadowfoam acreage is now being sprayed for the fly, unlike the years when few growers sprayed and the fly regularly reached damaging densities. In 2006-07 weeds and insect pest population data will again be collected and analyzed. Objective 3: Economic analysis. The cost savings associated with the new establishment practices were obtained by modifying the in-revision version of the Enterprise Budget spreadsheet for annual ryegrass production to reflect the operations involved in various meadowfoam establishment methods. Minor modifications are still in progress. For example, the costs and benefits of baling straw for sale versus the nutrient return from leaving straw on the field are not yet factored into this analysis. Traditional meadowfoam seedbed preparation, when meadowfoam production follows annual ryegrass, involves flailing the straw residue, followed by plowing it into the ground, harrowing and rolling. After a perennial grass seed crop, with the straw baled off for sale, the crowns are killed with glyphosate and the soil often just disked and rolled prior to planting. No-till plantings still require flailing the grass straw residue, but there are no other tillage operations. Planting later in the fall usually requires a pre-plant glyphosate application to control the sprouting ryegrass, occasionally two if planting in early December. However, December plantings and in some mid-November planted fields, S-metolachlor (Dual Magnum) is not needed for extended grass sprout control. For meadowfoam following annual ryegrass, costs per acre associated with flailing, tillage, planting, and herbicides applications are as follows for the typical operations for each category. Traditional seedbed preparation – $65.25; Mid-October no-till planting into a full straw load – $34.33; Mid-November no-till planting into a full straw load – $39.79; Early-December no-till planting into a full straw load- $36.29. Two modifications to typical operations are: 1) not using S-metolachlor on the mid-November planting will save $8.97; 2) an additional pre-plant glyphosate sprout burn down will cost $5.47. Broadcast seeding using a fertilizer buggy will save $6.30 compared to no-till drilling. Similar savings are associated with planting meadowfoam following perennial ryegrass production. These results are not in this online version. In addition to the cost of establishment, expected yields using the different methods, effectiveness of weed control, and flooding and freezing risks need to be considered when determining the best establishment date and method for a particular field. In 2006-07 similar economic analyses will be preformed. Objective 4 – Improving producer skills. Interactions with the growers during the meadowfoam trials on each farm take place throughout the year and allow for a two-way exchange of information that will enable growers and researchers to make more informed decisions on meadowfoam production practices. While the focus of this research is on establishment practices (no-till versus prepared seed bed, timing of planting, how to handle straw residue), decisions on winter fertilization rates and meadowfoam fly control are other topics of importance. The production manager/agronomist of the meadowfoam growers’ organization (OMG) now assists most/all growers with these later decisions. However, good growers use many sources of information, so our discussions with the growers on these topics are playing a role in their understanding of the issues. Review of the economic analysis of the new establishment practices with the 2005-06 growers is scheduled for later this fall. Objective 5 -Develop grower educational presentations. Work on this objective is still in progress.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The data from the Watson site confirm earlier years’ findings that when the crop does not suffer from excessive flooding or nitrogen fertility, planting in mid-November results in the highest yields. Typically the mid-November plantings result in better weed control, which is a significant contribution to the role of meadowfoam in the cropping systems in the Willamette Valley. Planting later than the traditional mid-October date reduces the risk associated with planting into a full straw load because of the early fall degradation of this straw residue.
The Cersovski site highlights the risks of late planting in fields susceptible to fall water saturation of the soil and winter flooding. The 2005-06 year was extreme in these terms, a nearby field that produced a good mid-November planted crop in 2003-04 suffered severe stand loss in 2005-06. The Willamette Valley is currently receiving greater than average fall rains, with November rainfall amounts 300% above average by mid-month. These rainfall events greater than long-term average are predicted to increase as a result of global warming, so late planting meadowfoam maybe become less of an option in the future. No-till planting in mid-October, particularly into a full straw load, increases the risk of poor fall weed control. However, it is a viable option. This is becoming the common practice of growers in the flood prone areas.
Watson is now planting meadowfoam in mid-November because of the yield potential and because he found he could eliminate the use of S-metolachlor in fields that did not experience excessive fall sprouting of volunteer grasses. Cersovski is no-till planting in mid-October on fields susceptible to flooding, a good thing this year. A new heavier Great Plains grain drill (not a true no-till drill) allows him to no-till. Kuenzi had success planting late in previous years, winning the award of Top 2 meadowfoam producer in 2004-05. He will continue to late plant meadowfoam.
Our previous Western SARE study (Changing meadowfoam planting dates and planting method to reduce input costs, pest pressure, and increase yields, SW02-052) documented the importance of the continuation of: 1) on-farm trials including communication of trial results, and 2) neighboring growers having success with these methods on their farm, in determining the choices/decisions made by growers. Informal information spread by farmer-to-farmer interactions plays an import role in information dissemination in this study.
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