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Fluid Journal : Fluid Journal 1993-1995
1 Fluid Journal Summer 1994 Summary: Research conducted over the last eight years by Drs. Westfall and Peterson at Colorado State University has shown that shifting from the traditional one crop every two years (stubble mulch tillage, wheat-fallow) to more intense no-till cropping systems (such as two crops every three years or three every four) will result in increased grain production and economic return. Shifting from wheat- fallow to wheat-corn-fallow has resulted in a 72 percent increase in annualized grain production, and from a 25 to 40 percent increase in dollar return to land, labor, capital, management and risk in northeast-ern Colorado. Inclusion of millet as the third crop in a four-year rotation did not increase economic return, compared to the wheat-corn-fallow analysis when using the 10-year average millet price of $5/cwt. However, at millet prices greater than $7/cwt, economic returns would be greater than with wheat-corn-fallow. At current prices of millet, its inclusion would be very profitable. Producers have considerable latitude in selection of the summer crop to be grown in these intensive rotations. Other crops that are adapted to this environment and fit into the producer's program should be considered. Nitrogen rate and placement studies revealed that higher N fertilizer rates are needed for intensive cropping systems as compared to traditional wheat-fallow. This results because the 72 percent in-crease in grain production removes more N, thereby depleting soil N reserves, making soil testing very important. Nitrogen fertilizer-use efficiency is also increased with intensive cropping systems, giving producers greater dollar return from their fertilizer inputs. While producers have considerable flexibility in choice of N fertilizer placements, particularly with summer crops, band applications of N fertilizers, either on the soil surface or below, tend to outperform surface broadcast applications. Increased economic returns, control of soil erosion by wind and water, and increased long-term sustainability will be a result of producer shifts to intensive cropping systems. Today's agriculturaleconomic situation dictates that a farmer make the most efficient use of all resources. Especially important in the western Great Plains is the effective management of precipitation and stored soil water. Research has shown that the by Dr. D.G. Westfall, Dr. G.A. Peterson, R. L. Kolberg, L. Sherrod Extra Crop Is Payoff In Dryland No-till Intensified Cropping System N management improves in dryland no-till production system where cropping intensity is increased versus traditional wheat-fallow system. most common management system in the Great Plains (wheat-fallow with stubble mulch tillage) stores 25 to 30 percent of the precipitation received during the fallow period. Other research has demonstrated that water storage can be increased to 40 to 60 percent when tillage is reduced or eliminated. The question has been, can intensified cropping systems generate enough income to support no-till management, since no-till practices require higher input costs because of herbicidal control of weeds? In an attempt to answer the question, Drs. Westfall and Peterson of Colorado State University began a project to investigate the possibility of producing more crops over several years, using a no-till system. The no-till system was selected because of its ability to store more rainfall. If more intensive cropping can be sustained, several questions concerning N fertilizer management also must be ad-dressed. It has been reported that nutrient cycling in soils changes when no-till practices are started. Crop residue accumulation on the soil Table 1. Northeast Colorado return to land, labor, capital, management, and risk; 1,200-acre farm. Figures are in percent of wheat-fallow stubble mulch system. Tillage preceding Wheat-fallow Wheat-corn-fallow wheat planting % % Stubble mulch 100 140 Reduced-till 92 136 No-till 72 125
Fluid Journal 1996-1998