No-till Livestock-Grain Rotation for Diversified Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $125,122.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Federal Funds: $13,737.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $8,997.00
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Stephen Bramwell
WSU Dept. Crop and Soil Sciences
Lynne Carpenter-Boggs
Washington State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: wheat
  • Animals: bovine, sheep


  • Animal Production: free-range, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, display, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, feasibility study, agricultural finance, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: cultural control
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: earthworms, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Crop-livestock integration may provide multiple economic, social and environmental benefits to farmers in the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho. This project was created to develop the potential for integrated livestock-grain low-disturbance farming systems for the Palouse region. This project utilized agronomic, economic, educational and networking methods to identify and address challenges to crop-livestock systems, undertake on-farm and university station research, review recent and historic literature, and engage regional producers. Through producer-researcher-extension working groups the advantages, issues, and barriers to such systems have been identified, discussed, iteratively refined, and addressed.

    Although many producers see good economic potential for such integration, agronomic and management questions must be addressed before a complete economic picture can emerge. The most common producer question, how to transition from pasture to row-crop production, is being addressed directly through trials on a cooperator farm. Long-term Agroecosystem Research Trials are being used to compare several rotation options including crop-livestock integration. Research objectives focused on (1) assessing method of tillage to terminate alfalfa in an organic system, soil nitrogen (N) dynamics, soil moisture and crop yield during the grain phase of an integrated crop-livestock system, (2) pasture establishment, productivity, and carrying capacity on the livestock side of this system, (3) describing historic and current conditions/obstacles with respect to crop-livestock integration, and (4) developing informational material.

    Results from this work indicate that minimum disturbance pasture termination in an organic crop-livestock system resulted in a 68 percent grain yield penalty compared to moldboard plow. Grain yield potential for no-fertilizer, no-pesticide crop-livestock systems was 82 percent of county average. Profitability of the grain rotation component in the integrated system was 157 percent greater than grain production in a non-integrated system. Tillage and soil moisture had minimal effect on soil inorganic N. Soil quality, pasture establishment methods and pasture species composition need refining to improve pasture carrying capacity.

    Producer, researcher, student and political participation in, or attention to, crop-livestock field days, field site visits, research projects and educational materials suggest potential for integrated systems to be viewed socially as viable alternatives to current annual crop systems. Review papers indicate a strong need to improve these grain-centric, annual cropping systems, as well as a well-established body of crop-livestock literature to guide future research and development. Results from this work, as well as recent, dramatic fluctuations in energy, fertilizer, and commodity markets continue to point to a positive role for crop-livestock integration in the Palouse, though in an increasingly complex political, economic and social climate.

    Project objectives:

    1. Form a crop-livestock working group and identify needs and obstacles to crop-livestock integration

      Review the historic, economic and environmental basis for integration of livestock into annual crop rotations in the Palouse

      Build on past and on-going crop-livestock research (both SARE-funded and otherwise) to articulate a well-informed (both historically and with respect to recent work) research agenda for the future assessment and development of crop-livestock systems in a manner specifically suited to the geographic, economic and environmental conditions of the Palouse region

      Utilize on-farm research trials to (1) determine the feasibility of minimum-tillage techniques to transition from perennial forage to annual grains, (2) quantify the impact of method of tillage on soil inorganic N concentrations, (3) determine the effect of moisture on soil inorganic N, and (3) determine the profitability of integrated organic grain-grassfed beef production compared to non-integrated organic grain production.

      Utilize trials at PCFS to determine the costs, productivity and carrying capacity of organic hay/pasture system in the Palouse region as the initiating rotation phase in a crop-livestock or crop-hay farming system

    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.