Maximizing winter wheat production with conservation tillage in the Northern Great Plains

Project assessing the potential for reduced tillage production of winter wheat in the Northern Great Plains


13 Jun 2001

Project Description

    Winter wheat production in Montana and other parts of the Northern Great Plains is severely limited by harsh winter climatic conditions. Conservation tillage practices are being implemented by producers to increase the survival and production of winter wheat and to conserve valuable soil resources.

    A key to maximum winter wheat production is water, a primary yield limiting resource in semiarid regions. Continuously cropped winter wheat grown under conservation tillage management is yielding 20% less than winter wheat grown on summer fallow acreage. Also, production on summer fallow acreage is approximately 50% below potential production for the state based on maximum water use efficiency, i.e. bu grain/acre/inch of plant available water.

    Adaptation of cropping systems that incorporate conservation tillage practices obviously compounds the problems encountered by the producer. The ultimate achievement of maximum winter wheat production under conservation tillage management in semiarid regions will depend upon the development of cultural practices that maximize water and nutrient use efficiencies and upon our understanding of varietal adaptation to growing environments.