Foster Creek Conservation District
Foster Creek Conservation District

Cost & Benefit of Rotations from the Wilke Research Farm

Green winter wheat

Analyzing the cost and benefits of management practices is a good way of deciding whether changes would make economic sense for your farm. This article summarizes the report, Wilke Research and Extension Farm Operation, Production, and Economic Performance for 2018. Read what conclusions Aaron Esser and Derek Appel of Washington State University (WSU) came to about the differences between crop rotations on a direct seed farm in Davenport, WA.

 

This group studied a 3-year, 4-year, and a continuous crop rotation from 2013 to 2018. The 3-year rotation included winter wheat, spring cereal, and no-till fallow. The 4-year rotation was winter wheat, spring broadleaf, spring cereal, and no-till fallow. The continuous crop alternated between the three crop options. The farm’s operation has 8 fields, 3 of which were on the 3-year rotation, 4 on the 4-year rotation, 1 on continuous. To create the analysis, they combined costs and returns from a set of fields that represented a different phase of each kind of rotation to get cost benefit results in 1 year. For example, in 2018 plot 2 (winter wheat) + plot 5 (spring cereal) + plot 7 (summer fallow) had a return over cost of $92.40/acre.  

Canola in bloom

When returns over costs were averaged over 3 and 6 years, the 3-year averages show that continuous cropping systems have a lower economic return of $100/acre compared to the 3-year and 4-year rotations averaging $116/acre and $135/acre. Looking at 6-year averages this pattern remains as the continuous cropping rotation averaged $61/acre, while the 3-year and 4-year rotations averaged $104/acre and $102/acre.

 

Even though there is little difference economically between 3-year and 4-year rotations, changing the rotation to include a broadleaf among winter wheat, spring wheat, and a fallow period is good for the field’s soil health. We thank the WSU Wilke Research Farm for running this experiment so that it may help you decide to try new things on your farm. We also thank Washington State Department of Ecology for supporting soil health in Douglas County for farmers to trial new practices like direct seed.

Rotation   Crops Number of Fields   3-Yr Avg   6-Yr Average
Continuous   Winter Wheat (WW) 1 $100/ac $61/ac
3-Year   WW, spring cereal, no-till fallow 3 $116/ac $104/ac
4-Year   WW, spring broadleaf, spring cereal, no-till fallow 4 $135/ac $102/ac
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