July 27, 2007, MADISON, WI Around the world, extreme climatic conditions are forcing farmers to rethink current cropping system strategies. To maximize crop production in the face of variable temperatures and precipitation, scientists say farmers may want to adopt a system in which crop sequencing decisions are based upon weather patterns and management goals each year. However, before making the change to a more adaptable cropping systems strategy, researchers say its important to understand how short-term crop sequencing decisions affect key agronomic and environmental attributes.
From 2002-2005, a team of researchers at the USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, North Dakota investigated crop sequencing effects of 10 crops in a region known for its variable climate. The researchers report their findings as a series of six papers in the July-August 2007 issue of Agronomy Journal. The results from the study were originally presented at the 2005 ASA-CSSA-SSSA annual meeting.
Because crop performance is greatly influenced by the sequence in which crops are grown, USDA researchers set out to explore the short-term effects of sequencing a variety of different crops grown throughout the Great Plains. Over a three-year period, USDA researchers used a unique crop by crop-residue matrix design to evaluate the effects of 100 crop sequences on crop production, plant diseases, soil residue coverage, and soil water depletion.
The crop by crop-residue matrix approach along with the multidisciplinary research team effort enhanced evaluation of crop interactions that may otherwise be overlooked in crop sequence research, said Don Tanaka, project leader for the USDA research effort.
In the six papers presented by the USDA highlight: