Strip-Tillage for Onions and Sweet Corn, Lorin Grigg

Strip-Tillage for Onions and Sweet Corn, Lorin Grigg

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Georgine Yorgey, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, Andrew McGuire, Irrigated Cropping Systems Agronomist, Washington State University Extension.

Lorin Grigg grows onions and sweet corn under sprinkler irrigation in Quincy, Washington. In this publication, Grigg discusses his strategy for cover cropping to protect seedlings from windblown sand and reduce wind erosion.

This case study is part of the Farmer-to-Farmer Case Study project, which explores innovative approaches regional farmers are using that may increase their resilience in the face of a changing climate.

Case study information presented is based on growers’ experiences and expertise and should not be considered as university recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement. Grower quotes have been edited slightly for clarity, without changing the meaning.

Readers interested in other case studies in this series can access them on the REACCH website or in the WSU Extension Learning Library.

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Lorin Grigg
Photo: Darrell Kilgore
Location: Quincy, WA

Average precipitation: 8 inches (irrigated cropping)

Cropping system: Onions in rotation with corn. They also lease ground to other farmers to grow vegetable crops including potatoes and dry edible beans.

Watch the companion video, Strip-Tillage in Onions, Farmer-to-Farmer Case Study Series, which introduces Grigg and his strip-tillage system.


Map: Kaelin Hamel-Rieken, Washington State University
In partnership with his father, Lorin Grigg produces onions, sweet corn and sometimes other vegetables in Quincy, Washington. As with many other farms in the area, he trades ground with other growers who grow crops such as potatoes and dry edible beans to diversify cropping sequences. The majority of their acreage is irrigated from wells, with some additional acreage receiving surface water from the Columbia River via the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. They also own and operate an onion packing operation.

The farm’s fine sandy soils (Quincy fine sand, NRCS 2016) are highly susceptible to wind erosion. Particularly in the spring and fall, fine windblown dust can create conditions that are a public health and safety concern. In the spring, windblown sand can also destroy young seedlings. When this happens, farmers have to replant at significant expense, or, if the planting window for the primary crop has passed, convert to another, generally less profitable, crop.

In response to this issue, Grigg and his father developed a strip cover cropping system that reduces wind erosion and protects seedlings during the spring.

Developing Cover Cropping Strategies through Trial and Error

Because almost all of the farm’s 3,000 acres are fine sand, Grigg and his father knew that windblown sand would likely be a concern for slow-growing onion seedlings. Furthermore, onion seed is expensive and small, with demanding requirements for successful stand establishment. The shallow planted seed needs a fine-tilled seedbed for emergence, without crop residues or clods. This leaves the soil, especially sands, even more prone to wind erosion.

The Grigg strip-till system is a response to the exacting needs of onions. Grigg and his father adopted cover cropping the first year they grew onions, in 1993. The system drew on strategies Grigg’s father had used for sugar beets in the 1970’s, as well as a system their neighbor was already using for onions.



Copyright 2018 Washington State University

Published June, 2018

WSU Extension bulletins contain material written and produced for public distribution. Alternate formats of our educational materials are available upon request for persons with disabilities. Please contact Washington State University Extension for more information

Issued by Washington State University Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in furtherance of the Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Extension programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, and national or ethnic origin; physical, mental, or sensory disability; marital status or sexual orientation; and status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension office. Trade names have been used to simplify information; no endorsement is intended.