| June 9, 2005,
ARS News Service: The days of growing wheat every
other year or two and leaving the ground bare the rest
of the time are a thing of the past in the Great Plains
states. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists
are giving farmers more than a dozen crops to choose from
each year, and the means to make choices from among more
than 100 possible combinations.
The ARS scientists have also developed a free CD farmers
can insert in their computers to calculate which crops
to plant after inputting the latest market prices.
Jon Hanson, research leader of the ARS Northern Great
Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, N.D., calls this
new approach "dynamic farming." Dynamic farming
systems provide a diversified portfolio of crops for
farmers in the Northern Great Plains to choose from.
Farmers can change crops quickly in response to sudden
changes in market conditions, weather or government
Merle Vigil, research leader of the ARS Central Great
Plains Resources Management Research Unit in Akron,
Colo., uses the same approach for the Central Great
All of this was made possible by the introduction of
no-till and related conservation tillage techniques
which leave a cover of unharvested plant parts to slow
moisture evaporation from the soil. This means there's
enough moisture in the soil to sustain crops just about
every year. The combination of conservation tillage
and annual rotations gives farmers extra income, higher
yields, more stability, fewer pests, more protection
against drought, less soil erosion and more water.
The order in which crops are grown has to be chosen
carefully, considering such factors as the amount of
residue a crop leaves, and root depth.
The scientists have found that how residue is managed
can make a big difference at harvest--10 to 20 extra
bushels of corn per acre, in just one example. They
are constantly studying ways to improve the systems,
including adding new crops and varieties. They're also
researching all the factors responsible for obtaining
the greatest economic return while minimizing risk.