Growers who are considering alternatives to fallow, such as legumes or forage crops, can use a new profitability tool to understand the impact on their bottom line, including impacts to the profitability of their main wheat crop. The Economic Model to Compare Crop Rotations is a new excel spreadsheet that assists dryland growers of the inland Pacific Northwest in comparing the whole-farm net returns of an alternative crop rotation, compared to their Business as Usual (BAU) rotation.
Why explore alternative rotations? In precipitation limited areas, farmers have often relied on rotations that include summer fallow to conserve precipitation in the soil profile. The drawback of summer fallow is that it leads to wind erosion, soil degradation, and limited crop diversity that contributes to disease issues.
Alternative rotations are also potentially relevant in the wetter annual cropping zone, where a crop is normally grown every year. While these areas have greater crop diversity, wet springs in recent years have prevented planting of spring crops. When this happens, the land remains fallow and is vulnerable to water erosion.