Enhancing No-Till and Conservation Farming Success Through the Use of Case Studies, Conferences, and Workshops to Facilitate Farmer to Farmer Learning in The Pacific Northwest
This project seeks to improve the adoption of no-till and conservation tillage practices by sharing the success and field-based wisdom of established practitioners with other farmers and agricultural advisors. Specific objectives follow.
1. Produce detailed case studies of successful farmer-implemented no-till and conservation tillage farming systems and distribute as extension publications.
2. Organize a farmer-to-farmer conference to highlight and discuss successful no-till and conservation farming systems in use throughout the dryland cropping areas of the Pacific Northwest.
3. Organize training of trainers workshops to enhance the capacity of extension educators, NRCS personnel, and farmers to assist farmers in identifying and implementing no-till and conservation tillage farming systems appropriate for their environmental and economic practices.
Although 65 percent of the dryland acreage in the Pacific Northwest is still conventionally tilled, the region is fortunate to have an increasing number of growers who, based on available research and their own experiences, have developed and implemented highly successful no-till and minimum tillage programs. Their working knowledge of these farming systems can provide invaluable guidance to other farmers who are considering adapting them to their farms. This SARE project seeks to improve the adoption of no-till and conservation tillage practices by sharing the success and field-based wisdom of these established practitioners with other farmers and agricultural advisors.
Sixteen case studies, published as extension bulletins, are being developed that highlight successful farmer-implemented no-till and minimum tillage farming systems. These cases include details of the grower’s farming practices and equipment; decision-making factors affecting the adoption, implementation and continued use of these practices; challenges faced by the growers and strategies used to address them; economic analyses; and, when appropriate, summaries of research data that supports an aspect of the growers operation (e.g., continuous cropping vs. wheat/fallow). Three of the case studies were published in September 1999. The others will be published between January and June 2000.
Train the trainers workshops, featuring the case studies, were conducted for NRCS and conservation district staff in Fall 1999. The 1998, 1999 and 2000 Northwest Direct Seed Conferences provide another forum for farmer-to-farmer learning about no-till and minimum-till systems. By sharing the working knowledge of experienced growers, we hope to enhance the success of no-till and minimum tillage farming in our region.
Refer to the “Dissemination of Findings” section below for information on how to access educational materials from the project.
Dissemination of Findings
The overarching goal of this project is to disseminate the advances of innovative soil conservation-oriented growers to other growers, and to university, industry, and government personnel. All three objectives¾the case studies, the no-till and conservation tillage conference and the training¾work toward this goal. The case studies are available in hard copy form from county extension and NRCS offices, as well as from the extension bulletins offices at Washington State University, University of Idaho and Oregon State University. In the two months since publication, 1,300 to 1,500 of the 2,000 copies of each of the first three case studies have been distributed. These case studies are available on-line at the Pacific Northwest STEEPIII Web page at http://pnwsteep.wsu.edu or contact the following extension publications offices: in Idaho, (208) 885-7982; Oregon, (541) 737-2513; and Washington, (800) 723-1763.
The conference not only provided farmer-based and research-based information to the growers and other agriculturalists who attended, it also reached countless others through ten news releases about the conference and conference topics, which were published in many regional agricultural publications, some national publications and Web sites, and daily or weekly newspapers. Some of the key publications included: Green Sheet, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, Ritzville, WA; Agri-Times Northwest, Pendleton, OR.; Seedsman Northwest. Yakima, WA; Idaho and Eastern Washington / Oregon Farmer-Stockman, Logan, UT; The Capital Press, Salem, OR; and, Wheat Life, Washington Association of Wheat Growers; among many others.
The conference proceedings and video also provided additional access to conference information. The 225-page proceedings provides a detailed summary of the 37 speaker presentations. The publication can be found on the conference Internet site at http://pnwsteep.wsu.edu/conf99 or ordered in print (contact the project coordinator). The conference’s seven focus sessions, ranging from one to six hours, were videotaped with a high-quality digital camera. The resulting series of 10 videotapes are available on loan (in the Pacific Northwest) and for sale at $15 each.
Potential Benefits or Impacts on Agriculture
This project has the potential to increase the number of farmers in the tri-state region who successfully adopt no-till and conservation tillage. By sharing the experiences of established no-till growers, we hope to encourage others to try no-till and help avoid the downfalls and economic stress that comes with adopting a new system. But the impact goes beyond that. No-till itself can help conserve and improve the soil resources, conserve moisture, and help farmers reduce costs and improve profitability.
Farmer Adoption and Direct Impact
While we do not have any specific examples of farmers changing to no-till or a conservation tillage system as a result of our efforts, we do know that the interest and demand for farmer-based knowledge of these systems is great, as evidenced by the great demand for the first three case study bulletins, and the tremendous turnout at the 1998 and 1999 Direct Seed Intensive Cropping Conferences.
Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers
Conference evaluations: 100 percent of the conference evaluation respondents felt the event would help increase the adaptation and success of direct seed cropping systems in the Northwest, and 99 percent indicated that they would attend a similar conference in 2000
Case study bulletins: While we have conducted no formal evaluation of the case study bulletins, we do know that interest in and demand for them have been great. In 1998, we sent two of our initial case studies and a survey to five non-case-study growers and two agricultural. advisors (extension and industry) for review. All reviewers said the case studies would help other growers understand the benefits and challenges of direct-seeding, encourage others to try direct-seeding and help them be successful.
A total of 57 growers have been directly involved in this project to date. Sixteen and 11 growers gave presentations about their conservation tillage and no-till operations at the 1998 and 1999 Direct Seed Conferences, respectively. Twenty-five growers have been interviewed, with 17 of those visited multiple times, for the case study project. Five growers served as reviewers of the first two case studies produced.
This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 2000 reporting cycle.