This regional project ran from 1988-1992 and was funded by the USDA-LISA (SARE) program.  It involved researchers and growers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.  The goal was to look at both historical research and practice as well as current developments to combine the most promising ideas for enhancing sustainability in this cropping region, which is constrained by moisture.  Therefore, practices such as cover cropping that are relatively easy to adopt in more humid regions can be a challenge here.  While dryland grain farming predominates across this region, the climate and rainfall patterns differ significantly and affect what a grower can do in one location versus another.  Therefore, broad brush recommendations are not generally feasible.


A number of outputs came from the project.  These included a series of Farming for Profit and Stewardship conferences, the Sustainable Farming Quarterly newsletters, a searchable database of all the historical research examined, a number of journal articles, and a summary publication.

Citation: Granatstein, D. 1992. Amber Waves: A Sourcebook for Sustainable Dryland Farming in the Northwestern United States. XB1025. Washington State University Agricultural Research Center, Pullman, WA. 82 pp.

This research reports presents the first comprehensive summary of the long-term tillage and residue management plots at Pendleton (started in the 1930s).  Effects on crop yield, the soil resource, and water quality, as well as potential alternative crops, are discussed.

  • Sustainability of dryland cropping in the Palouse: An historical view. Jennings, M.D., B.C. Miller, D.F. Bezdicek, and D. Granatstein. 1990. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 45(1):75-80.

The key findings of the historical research for the Palouse dryland cropping region are summarized and organized into the historical phases of sodbusting, liquidating the organic capital, power farming,  and agrichemical and technological age.

  • Prospects for Sustainable Agriculture in the Palouse: Farmer Experiences and Viewpoints.  Beus, C. et al. (eds.). 1990. XB1016, Agricultural Research Center, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164. 80 pp.

Twenty-four farmers in the Palouse region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho were interviewed to learn what kinds of practices they were using to achieve sustainability goals for their farms.  Three major strategies were evident – soil building rotations, input reduction, and alternative (often biological) products as a major production input.  The findings are summarized across farms under three headings: crop and soil management, economics and policy considerations, and social and institutional factors.

Detailed budgets of typical and alternative crop rotations in the annual crop zone are presented, with data derived from growers as well as several field experiments on alternative systems.  Conventional rotations are wheat-pulse and wheat-barley-pulse.  Alternative rotations are wheat-barley-sweetclover, rotations with rapeseed or canola, rotations with perennial grass, and continuous wheat.

  • Farming for Profit and Stewardship Conference Proceedings. Granatstein, D. and E. Kirby (eds.) 1990. Dept. of Agronomy & Soils, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164.  70 pp.

The first Farming for Profit and Stewardship conference was held in Post Falls, Idaho, on March 2-3, 1989, as part of the sustain able dryland farming project.  This was the first sustainable agriculture conference in the interior of the Pacific Northwest.  Speakers including leading farmers and academics from the region, as well as Dick and Sharon Thompson of Iowa, Fred Kirschenmann of North Dakota, Charles Francis of Nebraska, and Garth Youngberg of Washington, DC.

Sustainable Dryland Farming Database (CROPSYS)

The Northwest Dryland Cereal/Legume Cropping Systems Database is a compilation of research and experience in dryland agriculture in the northwestern U.S. collected over the past 100 years. Database topics include crop rotation, legumes and grasses, soil quality, soil fertility, tillage and erosion, economics, pests, and alternate crops. Land grant experiment station reports, USDA reports, and old books on dryland agriculture are catalogued in CROPSYS, as well as more current information from scientific journals, popular magazines, farmer experience, and unpublished materials. Most entries include an interpretive abstract.

A primary function of CROPSYS is to identify and locate references that are not catalogued in most contemporary bibliographic databases. For example, someone interested in using black medic in a cropping system can find information from university dissertations and seed company literature, and research results reported in conference proceedings. Most of these resources are not catalogued elsewhere. The database uses full text search.

To search the database, scroll to the bottom of the page.

CROPSYS Keywords: