Sustainable Crop-Livestock Integration for System Health in the Dryland Inland Pacific Northwest
CSANR Project 172
Dryland wheat-fallow producers have begun switching to a direct seed tillage system for the many soil health benefits such as reduced runoff, increased infiltration, and increased consistency of crop stands. As a result, producers are enjoying positive environmental and agronomic changes such as increased crop residue, better soil moisture, and fewer dust clouds at planting time. Direct seeding is a step in the right direction for soil health; however, this practice often requires increased pesticide and herbicide use. Thus, many producers are interested in economically sustainable strategies for reducing pesticide use and further improving soil health. This proposed project will work with five producers, who typically farm using a direct seed, wheat-fallow rotation, to experiment with a more biologically intensive and sustainable management system. We hypothesize that integrating cover crops and livestock will improve soil health, suppress weeds, and reduce pesticide use. Specifically, during the fallow season, an annual forage/cover crop mix will be planted and then grazed by livestock. Following, the field will return to wheat production during the typical wheat rotation. Long-term goals of the producers and the proposed project as they relate to the BIOAg Program include the following:
1. Increase diversity in an agricultural system that has historically planted a single crop for 100 years.
2. Reduce pesticide and synthetic herbicide use toward more socially responsible and environmentally sound agricultural production systems.
3. Reduce long-term economic risk, protect soil resources, and increase farm viability through more holistic, sustainable, and biologically-based farming practices.