Diversifying Dryland Cropping Systems


Adoption of diversified cropping systems requires a change in management philosophy and intensity (Figure 4.6). To ensure a successful diversified crop production system, you must begin to plan for the next crop while the current crop is growing.

Diversified Cropping Options

Among the summer crops adapted to the Great Plains climate are triticale (Tritico-secale Wittmack), dry pea (Pisum sativum L.), foxtail millet (Setaria italica L. Beauv.), and proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.). Sorghum is an excellent substitute for corn in production areas south of Cheyenne Wells, Colorado. In the more northern areas, early fall freezes often cause yield losses in grain sorghum.

Summer crops should be planted into crop residue that has been maintained in a weed free condition using either no-till or minimum tillage management. Use drills or planters that result in minimal soil disturbance during planting operations, thus allowing the retention of as much crop residue as possible.

Diversified cropping systems can vary greatly. The most common systems are winter wheat-corn-fallow (WCF), winter wheat-sorghum-fallow (WSF), winter wheat- proso millet (WMF), and winter wheat-corn-proso millet-fallow (WCMF). Diverse cropping systems without a fallow period include WCCM, WM, and continuous proso millet. However, continuous cropping systems have had little success in recent dry years due to inadequate soil moisture in the fall for winter wheat establishment and inadequate stored soil moisture to carry the wheat crop through periods of limited rainfall during the spring and summer. A fallow period prior to winter wheat planting will usually be required to keep this crop in your system.

Corn growing in winter wheat stubble in a diversified cropping system.

Figure 4.6 Corn growing in winter wheat stubble in a diversified cropping system.