Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station
Active Projects 2016

Note: A NEW project—initiated within last year—might not have an annual report, publications, or outcomes/impact.
Project: COL00615A Department: Southwestern Colorado Res Center  
PIs: Berrada, A ; Johnson, JJ ; Haley, SD ; Brick, M ; McKay, J ; Essah, S
Title: Research and Education to Enhance the Sustainability of Farming in Southwestern Colorado
Begin Date: 07/01/2015 Term Date: 06/30/2020 Most recent project status: New
Objectives: The main goal of this project is to provide research-based information to agricultural producers in southwestern Colorado to diversify their farming operation, optimize the use of available resources, and enhance the productivity and sustainability of the soil-water-plants-climate ecosystem. Specific objectives are: 1. Test the performance and adaptation of existing and alternative crops. 2. Develop management strategies to improve water conservation and use efficiency. 3. Determine the agronomic and economic feasibility of cover crops in dryland cropping systems. 4. Disseminate the project results to the public via publications, meetings, workshops, field days, and the media (newspapers, radio and TV stations, and the Internet).
Approach: The project objectives will be achieved by conducting well planned trials at the Southwestern Colorado Research Center and on farmers' fields, making well defined measurements and observations, carefully analyzing and interpreting the data, and disseminating the results to a wide audience. The data will be analyzed using statistical software such as SAS. Varieties and experimental lines of crops such as winter wheat, winter canola, dry bean, malting barley, industrial hemp, and potatoes will be tested annually at the Southwestern Colorado in replicated field trials (Objective 1). These entries will be assessed for grain yield, moisture, test weight, and protein or oil content. Other measurements include plant height, 50% heading date, maturity date, lodging, and disease infestation. Some of the best performing crop varieties or experimental lines will be tested on farmers' fields before recommending them for release or adoption. The so-called fallowing study will be conducted on a 28-acre alfalfa field that was seeded to alfalfa in 2014 (Objective 2). Treatments in 2015 and 2016 will be: (1) Stop irrigating after the first cutting, (2) Stop irrigating after the second cutting, and (3) Full irrigation. The whole field will be fully irrigated in 2017 and 2018. Soil water content will be measured with a neutron probe. Irrigation amounts will be measured using flow meters and rain gauges. The same rain gauges will be used to record rainfall. Soil samples will be taken at the start and end of each season to assess soil fertility and apply fertilizer if need be. Plant measurements will include alfalfa stand (e.g., number of plants/sq. ft.) and dry matter. Time of recovery from irrigation termination will be assessed. Under objective no. 3 (feasibility of cover crops in dryland cropping systems), cover crops will be grown during the fallow period between cash crops (i.e., winter wheat, dry bean or safflower) on five farmers' fields and at the Southwestern Colorado Research. The on-farm trials will be in Dolores County, CO and San Juan County, UT. They will include traditional (conventional tillage) and less traditional (no-till and organic) management practices. Cover crops will consist of single species and mixtures of up to nine species. Some will be inter-seeded (e.g., black medic or yellow sweet clover) with winter wheat; others will be planted shortly after wheat harvest or in early spring. Cover crops will be terminated before any of the species makes viable seeds. Measurements will include soil moisture, soil fertility, pest infestation, soil biological activity, water and wind erosion, and crop yield and quality. Partial budget analysis will be used to track changes in revenue that result from the operational and input costs associated with planting cover crops. Analysis will include measuring return on investment following cover crops, accounting for changes to yield or quality of cash crops. The information generated by these studies will be shared with a wide audience via field tours and workshops, social media, two video productions, annual technical reports or bulletins, three or more refereed journal articles and factsheets, and presentations at relevant events (Objective 4). Success will be measured by how well the research and outreach objectives are met, by the interest generated by each study, and by the impacts the project's findings will have on southwestern Colorado. For example, we will quantify the amount of soil that may be saved by growing cover crops during the fallow period between cash crops. Whenever possible, we will monitor the number of acres that are planted to cover crops, potatoes, malting barley or to the newer winter wheat or dry bean varieties. Feedback from the outreach activities will be sought through surveys and personal contacts.
Keywords: alfalfa, wheat, dry bean, alternative crops, cover crops, soil & water conservation, sustainability