Economic Comparison of Undercutter and Traditional Tillage Systems for Winter Wheat-Summer Fallow Farming

Economic Comparison of Undercutter and Traditional Tillage Systems for Winter Wheat-Summer Fallow Farming

EB2022E
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Andrey Zaikin, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University, 101 Hulbert Hall, Pullman, WA 99164-6210, Douglas Young, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University, 101 Hulbert Hall, Pullman, WA 99164-6210, William Schillinger, Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, Dryland Research Station, Lind, WA 99341
Wind erosion and blowing dust are major problems for traditional winter wheat-summer fallow tillage in eastern Washington due to reduced soil productivity and air quality. Although conservation tillage summer fallow can reduce wind erosion markedly, relatively few farmers in the low-precipitation (less than 12 inch/year) region of the Inland Pacific Northwest use it because of investment requirements for conservation tillage machinery and reluctance to change “tried and proven” traditional tillage methods. This bulletin addresses these barriers by comparing economic results from using a conservation V-sweep undercutter and traditional fallow tillage systems on a case-study farm near Ritzville, Washington. The undercutter produced a similar wheat yield to the 46 bu/ac eight-year average with traditional fallow. Furthermore, the conservation method was more profitable than the traditional system on the case-study farm due to slightly lower production costs. Eligibility for conservation payments further strengthened the profitability advantage of the undercutter system.
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Note

Enterprise costs and returns vary per farm and over time for any particular farm due to differences in

  • Capital, labor, land, and management resources
  • Type and size of machinery complement
  • Cultural practices
  • Size of farm and enterprise
  • Crop yields
  • Input prices
  • Commodity prices

Costs can also be calculated differently depending on the intended use of the cost estimate. The information in this publication represents costs and returns of a case study in Adams County,

Washington, of a farmer using both low-disturbance V-sweep undercutter conservation tillage* and traditional tillage systems for summer fallow prior to producing winter wheat. To avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions from this case study, closely examine the assumptions and data used and make appropriate adjustments to your situation.

*The HaybusterTM undercutter implement used in this study has 32-inch wide V-shaped blades with 28-inch spacing between blades (on two tiers) to slice below the soil surface with minimum soil lifting. As a primary spring tillage implement, the undercutter completely severs capillary pores to halt liquid water movement towards the soil surface to retain seed-zone moisture in summer fallow. The pitch of each blade can be individually adjusted to ensure uniform horizontal movement (i.e., minimum soil lifting) underneath the soil and easily fitted to deliver aqua nitrogen fertilizer for primary spring tillage. Depending on soil texture, farmers may or may not want to attach a finishing implement behind the undercutter to break large soil clods and fill air voids. The undercutter also works well for killing Russian thistles after wheat harvest.

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Copyright 2007 Washington State University

Published Febuary, 2007

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