A research project is underway at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center (ENREC) near Mead to evaluate a double crop production system. The experiment was designed by University of Nebraska faculty and graduate students as a potential alternative to the traditional corn/soybean rotation commonly used in the area.
A corn/soybean rotation can often lead to soil degradation, over-reliance on pesticides and fertilizers, frequent outbreaks of diseases and insects, herbicide-resistance weeds, and increased financial risks associated with low market prices. Diversifying a crop production system by including additional crops or methods can help overcome many of these issues.
This experiment used yellow field peas as the first crop in the double crop system. Yellow field peas are typically planted in March and harvested in July. Although not evaluated in this experiment, winter wheat (seeded in September/October and harvested in July) could be another cool-season crop option and provide additional benefits by overwintering and protecting the soil. Wheat has the ability to perform well in eastern Nebraska. (See variety trialresults and related article.)
The objectives of this project are:
- to evaluate the yield potential of pulse crops (field peas, lentils, and chickpeas) in eastern Nebraska. Current market prices for pulse crops are on this USDA site.
- to evaluate the feasibility of double cropping yellow field peas with short-season crops (corn, soybean, grain sorghum, millet and sunflower) and annual forages (forage sorghum and sorghum-Sudangrass) by measuring crop production and performing an economic analysis.
- to investigate the benefits of incorporating cover crops and livestock grazing into the cropping systems.
- to design the cropping system with an extended growing season that will minimize pesticide and fertilizer inputs and be more water-use efficient.
Pulse Crops Variety Trial
Although the double crop experiment is ongoing, an important component was to conduct a pulse crop variety trial to identify which varieties are best adapted to the environment in eastern Nebraska (Figure 1). The variety trial (Figure 2) was conducted adjacent to the double crop experiment at ENREC. Yellow peas, green peas, lentils, and chickpeas were planted early in the spring and evaluated for their characteristics such as flowering, maturity, plant height, test weight and yield (Table 1).
Short season crops (corn, soybean, sunflower, millet and milo), annual forages (forage sorghum and sudangrass) and cover crops were planted right after field pea harvest. The research is ongoing and data on yield and water use will be shared following harvest.