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Integrating sheep grazing into wheat-fallow systems: Crop yield and soil properties

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The two predominant systems for weed management in summer fallow are tillage with a field cultivator or multiple applications of broad spectrum herbicides with zero tillage. Both systems are based on substantial use of off farm resources. Strategic grazing of sheep may allow grain growers to more sustainably manage crop residues, volunteer crop, and other weeds during fallow periods. We conducted a study near Bozeman, Montana, USA, comparing three fallow weed management systems in two crop rotations from 2005 to 2008. Fallow weed management systems were conventional tillage, chemical fallow (herbicide application), and sheep grazing. The two crop rotations were summer fallow-spring wheat and summer fallow-winter wheat. In late fall, chemical-fallow treatment had greater crop residue cover and gravimetric soil water content than did tilled- or grazed-fallow. At the 0 to 15-cm depth, soil had lower bulk density in chemical- and tilled-fallow than in grazed fallow. Similarly, soil NO3-N, Ca, SO4-S concentrations and EC were lower following grazed-fallow than tilled-fallow, but Na concentration was higher following grazed-fallow than tilled- or chemical-fallow. Following spring and winter wheat, soil properties were not influence by treatments. Grain yield was greater in winter wheat than in spring wheat but the trend reversed in protein concentration. Although soil properties varied among treatments, fallow management system had little influence on yield or quality of spring and winter wheats. Sheep grazing during fallow periods had limited impact on subsequent wheat yield and quality, and is a suitable practice for weed and residue management in wheat-fallow systems.
Andrew W. Lenssen , Upendra M. Sainju , Patrick G. Hatfield
USDA Scientist Submission
Field crops research 2013 May v.146
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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