Triple-cropping Dairy Forage Production Systems Through Conservation Tillage in California's San Joaquin Valley

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $118,100.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jeff Mitchell
University of California, Davis

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: general silage crops
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems


    Excess nitrate in groundwater under California dairies is common, and recent regulations prohibit applications of nitrogen in excess of 140% of crop removal. This standard will force many dairies out of business if they cannot acquire additional land. Triple-cropping (growing three forage crops annually)theoretically utilizes more manure nutrients on the same ground and provides more feed, but it is dependent on timely harvests and crop turnover. We evaluated triple-cropping as a means to address both economic and environmental stewardship goals in field studies in important dairy counties in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

    Project objectives:

    1. increase the reliability of triple-cropping dairy forage production with the use of CT practices as a means of increasing forage biomass and nutrient uptake by determining production rates and N removal in triple-cropped forage fields compared to standard double-cropped fields,

      evaluate triple-cropping compared to standard double-cropping forage production in terms of whole dairy nitrogen budgets and profitability,

      extend widely information developed by the project to dairy farmers, consultants and industry groups via a variety of extension education means, including four field days annually at farms of partner farmers, distribution of an electronic CT forage production newsletter via the California Conservation Tillage Workgroup’s website, production of a DVD video on CT and forage triple-cropping that will be provided to 500 SJV dairy farmers during the course of this proposed work, distribution of four “popular press” summary articles on this work annually to dairy industry publications such as Western United Dairymen, California Dairy Coalition, Hoard’s Dairy and Dairy Business Journal, development of training materials on CT forage production that will be produced by UC’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Communication Services in their peer-reviewed 8000 Series and that will be used as part of the twice-annual educational events of the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, publication of a peer-reviewed article on the work in an appropriate scientific journal such as the Agronomy Journal, the Journal of Environmental Quality or California Agriculture, and presentation of results as part of our CT Workgroup’s involvement in the World Ag Expo held every second week in February in Tulare, CA with an expected “draw” of over 10,000 visitors, and

      track changes in the adoption of CT forage production practices in the SJV as evidenced by CT acreage surveys conducted by California’s CT Workgroup and CT equipment sales records.

    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.