- Agronomic: wheat
- Animals: sheep
- Animal Production: feed/forage
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: decision support system, extension
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns
- Pest Management: biological control
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
- Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities
Montana wheat producers use approximately 4.5 million pounds ofherbicide active ingredient annually on 3.75 million acres ofsummer fallow for weed control (calculation based on Montana Agricultural Statistics 2005). This represents the largest quantity ofherbicide used in Montana's number one industry Agriculture. In our current project at Ft. Ellis, MT, grain yields did not differ among chemical, mechanical (tillage), and grazed summer fallow management in either spring-or winter-wheat/fallow rotations (Figure 1.; Snyder et aI., 2007). In our previously funded SARE project SWOO-015 An Alternative to traditional wheat stubble management using sheep to control pests and improve soil nutrient cycling, we reported that sheep grazing was more effective than tillage or burning to control wheat stem sawfly. Grazing was also as effective as burning or tillage for biomass reduction (Figure 2). All ofthis was accomplished without negatively impacting soil bulk density or soil nutrient profiles (Hatfield et aI., 2007a, b, c). In a preliminary study that was the foundations for our current SARE Proposal SW07-13 Evaluation ofAlfalfa Weevil (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) Densities, Weed Abundance, and regrowth Characteristics ofAlfalfa Grazed by Sheep in Fall and Spring, we found that winter/spring sheep grazing appears to offer potential for alfalfa weevil management without compromising yield or nutritive value ofsubsequent alfalfa production (Goosey et a1., 2006; Figure 3). The implementation ofthese projects does not require crop producers to become sheep producers; rather both sheep and grain producers can obtain benefits from partnerships. To accomplish this both, sheep and crop producers need more information on the economic feasibility ofincorporating sheep into farming systems. Additionally, producers need a tool to evaluate enterprise level budgeting specific to their operation and proposed partnerships. Our objective for this project is to develop a Fallow Grazing Enterprise Budget Decision Support Tool. We will use this tool to provide both sheep and crop producers with an economic assessment ofour research. Plus this free online tool will be available to producers to perform enterprise budget analyses specific to their operations. Through our published and proposed research, we have the foundation to quantify factors associated with inputs and outcomes. With our published results on biological effectiveness and our detailed records on inputs, we only need to combine the two into a usable model to project economic feasibility and profitability.
Project objectives from proposal:
The ultimate measure of success of this project is the development of partnerships between crop and sheep producers to more effectively manage weeds, insect pests, and crop residues with grazing sheep rather than by tillage or chemical means. The first and simplest method to begin evaluating the use ofour decision support program is to count "hits" on the Fallow Grazing Enterprise Budget web page. Second, work with The Montana Wool and Grain Growers to conduct a survey ofmembers that graze on fallow or grain stubble fields based on information gained from the Fallow Grazing Enterprise Budget and other outreach activities. This will be done by including an in-depth survey tool with the Wool and Grain Grower Newsletters asking producers if they are involved in using sheep for fallow management and if so, what they estimate is the reduction in pesticide and fuel usage. Our primary goal is the development of an economic decision support tool that provides accurate estimates ofcosts and benefits of using sheep rather than herbicides or mechanical tillage to manage summer fallow and grain stubble.