Research

Diversifying organic cropping options for the brown soils through intercropping

  • Term: Three years, beginning in 2016
  • Funding Amount: $68,678
  • Lead Researcher(s): Myriam Fernandez (AAFC)
  • Funding Partners: Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG)
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to determine if intercrops can reduce weed populations compared to sole non-competitive crops and in the following spring wheat crop. It will also determine the nitrogen benefit from legumes in intercrops to the following wheat crop, compared to sole legume crops and green manure and determine if intercrops have less disease than monocrops, to determine the yield and quality of crops in intercrops at various rations and of the following wheat crop, compared to monocrops and finally to determine the optimal seed ration of the intercrops for achieving the greatest agronomic and economic benefit.

    Intercropping is expected to offer greater financial stability than monocropping by providing insurance against failure or unstable market prices for a given crop, especially in regions subject to extreme weather conditions. Climatic conditions in southwest SK and other regions in the province have varied very significantly in the last few years. Compared to monocrops, this is accomplished by reducing weather-related production risks and providing overall yield increase due to more efficient and effective use of water, sunlight, and nutrients. This is particularly important in areas like southwest Saskatchewan where weather is variable and usually suboptimal for any single crop.

    This research would also provide new information useful for production under conventional methods (i.e. with fertilizer and pesticides), as many of the potential intercrop production increase benefits would also be important plus potentially reducing fertilizer and pesticide requirements.

    Regardless of the crop management methods, intercropping with legumes would allow producers not to forego a year of cash cropping through summerfallow or green manure. Thus, it is expected that intercropping will lead to increases in farm income while potentially reducing production risk and increasing overall yield.

    It is expected that the proposed research will generate new knowledge and understanding about agronomic and economic merits of various intercropping combinations that include legumes preceding wheat in the semiarid brown soil zone. The evaluation of the performance of various intercrops, and ratios within each of these crop combinations, will help producers with the determination of the right combination of crops. This would help in the adoption of intercropping not only in this semi-arid region, but in other semi-arid regions of Western Canada and beyond.

    The increased within-crop diversification for intensified and more environmental-friendly crop production is expected to lessen agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gases.

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