A long-term experiment by the University of Wyoming near Lingle is studying if dryland wheat farmers can become organically certified through use of compost and cover crops to improve soil health.
Starting in 2015, researchers from the ecosystem science and management and plant sciences departments in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources looked into how soil health and wheat are affected by applying a high rate of compost once every 10 years – as many as 18 tons per acre, followed with cover crops.
The study is at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center and collaborating farms.
“The purpose of planting the cover crops is attenuating nitrogen through the cover crop biomass and perhaps create additional benefits to winter wheat by returning cover crop organic matter to the soil,” said Urszula Norton, an associate professor of agroecology in the plant sciences department.
The cover crops are:
- Pure stand of Lacy phacelia
- Cold-season nitrogen-fixer mix of spring pea, vetch, lentils, chick peas and oats
- A mycorrhizal mix of vetch, bean, oats, barley, Flax.
- Cool-season soil-builder mix of barley, oats, spring pea, lentil, sunflower.