| 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 policy.
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 Plains.
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
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.