Resilient Dryland Farming Appropriation: Pushing the Boundaries of the Dryland Wheat Production SystemChristina H. Hagerty – Cereal Pathology, Oregon State University (OSU) -
The Resilient Dryland Farming Appropriation (RDFA) is a new federally funded project at the USDA-ARS Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center and the OSU Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center. The RDFA funds were secured through legislative efforts by Oregon wheat growers and stakeholders. The appropriation brings an impressive $2M to the Agency annually, with 75% of funds allocated to USDA-ARS, and 25% of funds to OSU.
The RDFA funding allows us to collaborate more closely across agencies to answer large, cross-disciplinary research questions in detail. The complexity and nuance of dryland wheat farming is ever-changing. Greater efforts in multi-faceted research will allow us to address the complexity of the dryland wheat production system as a whole: economics, microbiology, agronomy, weed science, plant physiology, cultivar selection, plant pathology and more.
The RDFA research objectives are grower-driven. The project design was defined by a dialogue between Oregon wheat growers, ARS scientists, and OSU researchers. The ultimate goal of the RDFA is to increase resiliency and profitability in the dryland wheat cropping system. Profitability is a term that resonates widely. Our aim to improve the overall profit margin of the Oregon wheat cash crop while enhancing resiliency. Resiliency in this context speaks to the robustness of dryland wheat production systems including climate variability, market volatility, weather, and other unpredictable challenges.
The first iteration of the RDFA is to explore cover cropping and alternative cropping in two different rainfall zones. Our moderate rainfall location (~16 in annual precipitation) is at the Pendleton Station and our low rainfall location (~9 in annual precipitation) is hosted by Chris Rauch at Starvation Farms in Morrow County.
Cover and alternative cropping are a challenge in all dryland systems but especially under significant water limitations. Our goal is to understand and quantify the specific profitability trade-offs that may come along with cover and alternative cropping in our region. The data generated by the RDFA in the coming years will help growers objectively evaluate these trade-offs to decide if cover or alternative cropping systems make dollars and sense on their operation.
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