Agriculture Research Projects
Physiological and ecological evaluation of metabolism-based herbicide resistance in Avena fatua (wild oat)
Sheep grazing as an agro-ecological pest management tactic in a minimum till rotational cropping system. Impacts on weed population and weed communities
Summary: Traditional agricultural production systems based on intensive use of inputs have contributed greatly to feeding the world’s growing population. However, this may not be the preferred strategy for the future for economic and environmental reasons. This project takes advantage of the mutual benefit of sheep herbivory with broadleaf weed and invasive annual grass control as well as nutrient cycling for grain crops without negative impacts on soil bulk density. The proposed wheat-pea/barley-fallow rotation increases cropping intensity from 0.5 to 0.67, and should improve precipitation use efficiency and control of weeds, compared to the conventional wheat-fallow system. The team’s long-term goal is to develop an integrated crop/livestock production system that is economical and environmentally sustainable and provides benefits to both grazing livestock and crop farming systems. Our long-term objective is to develop a holistic sheep/crop production farming system that uses sheep to manage crop residues, improve soil fertility, reduce weed and insect pests, increase carbon sequestration, reduce pesticide use, and increase use of low cost weeds and crop residues for fiber and meat production.
The invasion potential and competitive ability of Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz (Camelina) in rangeland ecosystems in south-central Montana
Summary: Camelina sativa is a recently introduced oilseed crop in Montana and has the potential for large scale production for the biofuel market. However, due to innate weedy characteristics, the invasive potential of this species is of concern. A need exists for the creation of a pre-entry protocol to more accurately assess risk to minimize the uncertainty inherent in qualitative weed risk assessment approaches. We assessed the probability of C. sativa to invade rangeland ecosystems of south-central Montana to address this concern. The objectives of this study were to 1) quantitatively assess the invasion potential of C. sativa by collecting demographic data over two years and developing a population dynamics model, 2) compare quantitative results gained from experimentation and modeling to predictions suggested by a popular, qualitatively-based weed risk assessment system, and 3) assess the impact of growing conditions on the relative competitiveness of C. sativa and Brassica napus (L.) (canola).
Role of wheat variety, weed biotype, and stress on virus transmission and crop-weed competitive interactions.
Summary: In the Great Plains and Pacific Northwest, the concentration of wheat production has resulted in the influx of specialized pest complexes threatening the economic and environmental sustainability of the small grain production system. Stakeholders across the region have identified wheat viruses and grassy weeds as having major impacts on yield and grain quality. Not only can grassy weeds and volunteer wheat reduce soil moisture and crop yield, they are known as a host for several viruses including Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV), High Plains virus (HPV), Triticum mosaic virus (TriMV), and the arthropod vector of all three viruses, the wheat curl mite (WCM, Eriphyes tulipae). The goals of this study are to: 1) Assess the importance of soil moisture and virus stress on crop-grassy weed competitive interactions. 2) Evaluate the response of crop variety and weed biotypes to wheat virus strains found in the Great Plains region, and 3) Develop and deliver a research-based educational program on the joint management of grassy weeds and virus under different environmental conditions.
A system-level approach to pest management
Summary: Wheat stem sawfly, Fusarium crown rot, and grassy weeds represent a major economic burden to the cropping system that dominates the Northern Great Plains. One reason for the importance of these pests is the lack of effective chemical management options for wheat stem sawfly and Fusarium crown rot as well as the increased abundance of herbicide resistant weed biotypes. Also, because these pests form an inter-trophic pest complex whose synergistic impact on yields and grain quality may vary with management practices, there are evident contradictions in single-pest control recommendations. This study evaluates how the integration of several easy-to-manage variables (crop stand density, herbicide management approach, and crop variety) affect wheat stem sawfly Fusarium crown rot, and weeds abundance and their impact on yield and grain quality. We examine interactions among pest species and their synergistic impacts on crop by manipulating the abundance of wheat stem sawfly, Fusarium, and grassy weeds in an experimental wheat crop. Field trials are being conducted to determine the impact that wheat variety (Choteau, Reeder, and McNeal), stand density (90, 180 and 360 seed m-2) and herbicide management approach (no herbicide, banded herbicides, and overcast herbicides) have on production and pest abundance. Results of the two studies will be used to parameterize a model that incorporates management practices and pest dynamics to predict yields and grain quality. Because our research focuses on simple management tactics, we expect producers will readily incorporate our findings into their production systems. To secure success in the adoption of management recommendations, we will develop an extension program of on- and off-farm presentations to illustrate the joint management of wheat stem sawfly, Fusarium crown rot, and grassy weeds.
Effectiveness of newly developed herbicides for weed control in Montana’s agriculture.
Summary: Every year, new herbicides and re-formulations of existing products are released into the market. As part of a service to Montana agricultural producers and in close collaboration with the Industry, we conducted herbicide screening trials to assess the effectiveness of these products under a range of environmental and crop conditions representative of Montana’s agriculture.
Employing individual plant growth models to quantify the impact of neighboring plants in plant communities.
Summary: We have developed a quasi-mechanistic plant growth model that utilizes draw on shared resource pools as a basis for characterizing individual plant responses in plant communities. We have used empirical and simulation experiments to parameterize and explore the outcomes of competition for resources among neighboring plants.
Making Market Gardens And Local Based Food Systems More Sustainable.
Summary: Consumer demand for healthy, locally grown produce has increased the opportunities for farmers in Montana over the last decade. The goal of this research is to investigate the agronomic drivers of nutritional content (specifically antioxidants) in vegetable crops and develop produce marketing tools based on nutritional quality. The long-term goal of this project is to increase the economic viability and environmental sustainability of vegetable production in Montana.
Structured Decision Making and Economic Optimization Of Agricultural Inputs.
Summary: Our goal is to use on-farm experimentation to maximize the efficiency and economic return from managed inputs. We are working to accomplish this goal by constructing an economic optimization model that evaluates inputs (crop seeding rate, nitrogen rate and herbicide rate) and crop response to environment (plant available water and weed density), and quantifies, through simulation, the long-term risks associated with management alternatives at the field scale under a multiple objective constraint.
Summary: The long-term goal of our interdisciplinary team of scientists is to develop, in direct collaboration with farmers, a suite of tools that facilitate structured decision making and adaptive management on farms. We intend to create a long-term agricultural research site (LTARS) to examine the dynamics of the dryland small grain production system of the Northern Great Plains. We will identify fundamental biogeochemical processes, how they relate to agronomic production practices, and how production practices and human wellbeing are influenced by land use policy.