Spring wheat rotations in north-central Saskatchewan
Effects of rotation length, crop sequence, and fertilization on yields and economic performance of 10 spring wheat-based rotations are examined over a 27-year period (1960-86) on an Orthic Black Chernozem at Melfort, Saskatchewan. The silty clay loam soil had an initial organic N content of about 0.55 % (0-15 cm depth). During 1960-71, fertilized plots received N and P based on general recommendations for the region; thereafter, fertilizer was applied based on soil tests. Yields of wheat grown on fertilized fallow were similar for F-W, F-W-W and a 6-yr fallow-wheat-legume hay (F-W-W-H-H-W) rotation (avg 2519 kg ha-1 in 1960-71 and 3036 kg ha-1 in the wetter 1972-86 period). Fertilized stubble wheat yields in a F-W-W rotation averaged 88 % of comparable fallow wheat yields, while continuous wheat averaged only 66 % due to greater weed and disease problems. Inclusion of grass-legume hay or legume green manure crops in the rotations provided no yield benefit for subsequent wheat crops in this fertile soil. Results of the economic analysis showed that at wheat prices greater than $147 t-1, fertilized F-W-W, F-C-W and F-W-W-H-H-W generally provided the best overall economic return. At lower wheat prices unfertilized F-W-W and F-W-W-H-H-W, and fertilized F-W often provided the highest net income. It was profitable to substitute canola for wheat grown on conventional fallow or on partial fallow after grass-legume hay when the ratio of canola to wheat price was greater than about 2.0. Similarly, it was profitable to include grass-legume hay in wheat rotations when the hay price was greater than about one-half that of wheat. Continuous wheat and legume green manure rotation were not economically competitive with the best rotations at any of the price options examined. Fertilizer application was profitable in the F-W-W and continuous wheat rotations when the ratio of fertilizer N cost to wheat price was less than about 5.0; it was profitable in F-W-W-H-H-W when this ratio was less than 3.5. The cost of producing wheat, income variability, and the frequency of economic losses increased with cropping intensity.
Soils and Crops Workshop