Wheat farmers adopt the undercutter fallow method to reduce wind erosion and sustain profits
Young, Douglas Leonard
Schillinger, William F.
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Blowing dust from excessively tilled fallow fields is a major soil loss and air quality concern in the low precipitation (<12 inches annually) wheat production region of the Inland Pacific Northwest (PNW). A 2-year, tillage-based winter wheat-summer fallow (WW-SF) rotation is practiced on more than 90% of rainfed cropland in the region. Earlier research proved that the undercutter method for non-soil inversion primary spring tillage is not only environmentally superior but also agronomically and economically equivalent to high-soil disturbance conventional tillage. In this study, we conducted comprehensive surveys of 47 wheat farmers who purchased undercutters through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Farmers received 50% cost shares on the condition that they use the undercutter as prescribed by university scientists on at least 160 acres of land for three consecutive years. Participating farmers were interviewed each year from 2008 to 2010 regarding the agronomic and economic performance of the undercutter versus conventional fallow on their farms. The survey revealed equivalent average winter wheat grain yields and profitability for the two systems from 104 paired comparisons. Survey results also showed that 90% of farmer participants were satisfied with the undercutter system. We conclude that the undercutter system offers a costless air quality gain to society and soil conservation benefit for farmers.