Applying Precision Seeding Rates in Organic Dryland Grain Production
Peer Reviewed StatusNon-Peer Reviewed
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Applying precision agriculture tools on field scale experiments has allowed for the development of on farm precision experimentation (OFPE), which offers farmers and researchers new insights into the temporal and spatial variability of their land. OFPE is a methodology of farmer driven field scale experiments analyzed by scientist partners. OFPE can be applied in any farm setting to learn about the variation within a specific field, relative to a specific input. The aspirations of OFPE are to increase farmer efficiencies, reduce inputs, and maximize producer profits. We applied OFPE to organic agriculture by testing seeding rates of green manure cover crops and following year wheat (cash) crops using variable rate seeding equipment. In 2019 we planted (60kg/ha, 90kg/ha and 120kg/ha) peas on a field in Montana, USA that will get planted to three seeding rates of wheat in 2020. In the same growing season we applied three seeding rates (150 kg/ha, 180 kg/ha, and 225 kg/ha) of spring wheat and looked for yield differences across a 175 acre organically managed field in south east Manitoba. The high seeding rate produced the greatest yields, except on hilltops where the lowest seeding rate produced highest yields. Based on these results a model was constructed to optimize seeding rates across this field in the future. The net return on the wheat (based on 2013-2019 average organic wheat price) was $140.86/ha (USD). If the farmer had applied the mid-level seeding rate across the entire field they would have received $143.45/ha, and if they had applied the optimized variable rate described by the model, their net return would have been $149.58/ha. Early OFPE results indicate that optimized variable seeding rates outcompete farmer-chosen single field rates. Annual use of OFPE on a field will allow for continual optimization of that field over both time and space. OFPE projects are underway on five organic grain farms in Montana and Manitoba. Continued experiments will test the efficacy on cash crops and nitrogen fixing cover crops, to optimize nitrogen levels in the soil, reduce weed pressure, and maximize the farmers net return.
Part OfSoils and Crops Workshop
organic dryland grain production
on farm precision experimentation
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