Research at the Cook Agronomy Farm involves more than 20 scientists. It focuses on cropping techniques that optimize inputs, such as fertilizer and fuel, and protect natural resources, such as soil, but are productive and profitable.
Productivity of spring grain crops was mapped on the farm to a very fine scale in the 1999 and 2000 crop years. In 2001 a long-term direct seed cropping systems study was initiated using six three-year crop rotations: spring and winter wheat are planted two out of every 3 years, with the third crop either spring canola, winter lentils, spring or winter peas, or spring or winter barley. The focus is on making a profit with continuous or near continuous cereals without depending on conventional tillage or stubble burning.
In addition to this basic management plan, numerous types of treatments are applied and data collected at specific sites within the farm. To help monitor the specific experimental sites, a 90-acre portion of the farm has been intensively grid sampled at 370 sites referenced to global positioning satellites for data on soil characteristics, soil nutrients, soil water content and crop use, weed seedbank, and soilborne pathogens. This portion of this farm is unquestionably the most intensively sampled and mapped field in the Inland Northwest.
Specific research projects include:
- Precision application of fertilizer
- Monitoring root disease pathogens
- Changing weed seedbank dynamics
- Monitoring organic matter and straw utilization
- Residue management
- Economics of no-till cropping systems across the landscape
- Soil carbon sequestration and trading
- N losses in tile drainage