CAHNRS and WSU Extension

Wheat and Small Grains

Managing Soil Nitrogen

Providing adequate nitrogen levels to your crop without using synthetic sources of nitrogen can be a major challenge: organic commercial fertilizers are expensive and manure is rarely available. Including legumes in your crop rotation is key to maintain acceptable levels of N.

  • Start building your soil N during the transition period: good levels of N for the first year of your certifiable crop will translate into better yields and grain quality, all the better to cash in on that organic premium.
  • In a study comparing nine crop rotation systems, Borelli et al. found that organic spring wheat performed best if the transition period included legumes or green manure. Winter wheat also did better when the transition period included legumes. Both spring wheat and winter wheat had higher protein content when the transition period included legumes for at least one year.
  • Even if legumes will successfully build soil nitrogen levels during the transition period, supplementing soil N after the transition period is necessary.
  • Alfalfa can be a great asset in your rotation. Check out this guide for organic alfalfa management.
Wheat and Small Grains, P.O. Box 646420 Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6420, 509-335-1719, Contact Us
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