Production and Conservation Practices to Maintain Grass Seed Farm Profits
Forage Seed and Cereal Research
Project Number: 5358-21410-003-00
Start Date: Mar 13, 2009
End Date: Dec 11, 2013
Objective 1. Develop economical conservation practices for grass seed production systems that effectively reduce sediment transport and maintain water quality, crop productivity, and wildlife habitat.
• Sub-objective 1.1. Develop biophysical data at a watershed scale that quantify the effectiveness of selected conservation practices within grass seed production systems in reducing sediment transport and maintaining water quality.
• Sub-objective 1.2. Quantify the relative contributions of grass seed fields and adjacent riparian zones to aquatic and avian wildlife habitat quality.
• Sub-objective 1.3. Develop indicators of ecosystem service capacity that are geo-spatially linked to agricultural practices.
• Sub-objective 1.4. Optimize the placement of conservation practices and precision agricultural inputs that account for in-field variability in seed yield.
Objective 2. Provide value-added opportunities for local-scale conversion of grass straw into bioenergy.
• Sub-objective 2.1. Quantify the geo-spatial distribution of straw and associated feedstock transportation costs and the impact of cost on the conversion scale suitable for the Pacific Northwest.
• Sub-objective 2.2. Conduct an on-farm pilot trial to evaluate the feasibility of commercializing local-scale thermochemical conversion of straw into bioenergy within an annual farming operation cycle.
• Sub-objective 2.3. Quantify the impact of straw removal from a perennial grass seed production system on carbon sequestration and soil quality.
• Sub-objective 2.4. Characterize straw ash chemical composition and the potential for application as fertilizer additive and soil carbon supplementation.
Objective 3. Integrate available information regarding production, conservation, and potential value-added enterprises to improve whole-farm profitability and accomplish conservation goals and requirements in support of USDA Farm Bill Conservation Title.
• Sub-objective 3.1. Quantify the impact of agricultural pollution abatement strategies and policy instruments for optimal selection and placement of conservation practices to maximize farm profitability and environmental quality and enhance rural quality of life.
• Sub-objective 3.2. Evaluate relative economic and environmental services trade-offs of introducing bio-based energy production into existing agricultural production systems.
Societal expectations that U.S. agriculture provide stable supplies of food and fiber while maintaining or enhancing natural resource quality require agricultural systems that achieve multiple objectives while maintaining profitability. Optimizing the use of production options, including new value-added opportunities in bioenergy along with Farm Bill Conservation Title incentives, while minimizing the impact of rapidly rising fuel and fertilizer costs is critical in achieving these multiple objectives. This research project will develop new information on ecosystem services provided by perennial grass seed cropping systems under contrasting management practices, evaluate the potential for converting agricultural residues produced by these systems into an on-farm value-added revenue stream, and quantify the impact of residue removal on soil and water quality. This new information will be utilized in the computer-assisted optimization routines to identify sets of management options that enable producers and policy-makers to make informed decisions that achieve societal and producer expectations of productivity, sustainability, and profitability. The information and technologies developed within agroecosystems that are unique to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) represent an integral part of the CEAP (Conservation Effects Assessment Program), REAP (Renewable Energy Assessment Program) and GRACEnet (Greenhouse Gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement network) projects and will be widely applicable to agroecosystems across the country that provide the focus for these national initiatives.