Crop Production During Conversion from Conventional to Low-Input Methods
- W. C. Liebhardt,
- R. W. Andrews ,
- M. N. Culik,
- R. R. Harwood,
- R. R. Janke,
- J. K. Radke and
- S. L. Reiger-Schwartz
- D ep. of Agronomy and Range Science, Univ. of California, Davis, CA 95616
( USDA-ARS), Rodale Res. Center, RD1 Box 323, Kutztown, PA 19530
C ornell Coop. Ext., Canandaigua, NY 14424;
W inrock International, Rt. 3 Morrilton, AR 72110,
( USDA-ARS), Rodale Res. Center, RD1 Box 323, Kutztown, PA 19530;
R odale Research Center
A 5-yr cropping system experiment was initiated in 1981 to study transition from a conventional agricultural system using pesticides and fertilizers to a low-input system. The site was primarily Comly silt loam (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic, Typic Fragiudalf) with 12% Berks shaly silt loam (loamy-skeletal, mixed, mesic, Typic Dystrochrept), and a small area of Duffield silt loam (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic, Ultic Hapludalf), in Berks County, eastern Pennsylvania. Three 5-yr rotations were compared. A conventional corn (Zea mays L.)-soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation (designated “conventional”) was compared to two low-input rotations which utilized oat (Avena saliva L.), red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), in addition to corn and soybean. One low-input rotation used cattle manure as a nutrient source and produced forage crops in addition to cash crops (designated “low-input/livestock”), while the other used legume crops as a nutrient source, and produced a cash crop every year (designated “low-input/cash grain”). Corn grain yields in the low-input systems were 75% of conventional in 1981 to 1984, but yields were not significantly different in 1985. Weed competition and insufficient N limited low-input corn yields during the first 4 yr. Soybean yields in the low-input systems were equal to or greater than conventional all 5 yr. It is concluded that a favorable transition from input-intensive cropping to low-input systems is feasible, but only if crop rotations are used which include crops that demand less N and are competitive with weeds, such as small grain, soybean, or legume hay. Corn should be avoided for the first 3 to 4 yr.
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