Crop Research

Shepherd's Grain R&D > Crop Research

Shepherd's Grain invests in advancing tillage-free agricultural practices. We demonstrate and promote the economic and environmental reasons for being tillage-free.

But committing to tillage-free practices is not an end in itself. In order for it to be successful it must include diversified crop rotations, which in turn means that growers must be equipped with knowledge and cultured crop management skills.

Oat Research

It is not common to find oats growing in the PNW Shepherd’s Grain growing region, but the agronomic value of growing oats in crop rotation is high. Oats promote mycorrhizal fungi development and activity, suppress problem weeds and other pests, and provide growers a different crop species to keep their crop rotations diverse.

SG Oat Variety Trials, Genesee, Idaho

Shepherd’s Grain has researched oat market opportunities, and in 2016, 2017, and 2018 performed oat variety and agronomic trials. The goal of the variety and agronomic trials was to determine varieties and growing practices that would lead to high test weight oats.

Shepherd’s Grain also found anecdotal evidence with its growers that oats suppress Italian Ryegrass, a winter annual grass weed that is becoming prolific and herbicide resistant on the Palouse. Likewise, there was anecdotal evidence that oats were immune to the crop destruction that can come through click beetle larvae, otherwise known as wireworms. In 2018, Shepherd’s Grain performed research to discover the level of natural Italian Ryegrass control in oats versus spring wheat.

We continue to research winter oat production in tandem with the University of Idaho.

Long-Term Diverse Crop Rotation Research

Millet grown on Eric Odberg’s Rotation Research field.

Eric Odberg, a Shepherd’s Grain grower in Genesee, Idaho, has partnered with Shepherd’s Grain to analyze diverse crop rotations in the southern Palouse. His growing region primarily relies on a 3-year crop rotation: 1. Winter Wheat, 2. Spring Cereal, 3. Broadleaf Crop (usually garbanzo beans, peas, or lentils).

We wanted to diversify and lengthen the crop rotation at field scale in order to 1. Increase soil organic matter, 2. Increase soil biology diversity and balance, and 3. Increase residue coverage after harvest of broadleaf crops.

We settled on a 6 year rotation that has now gone through a full cycle and began again with the 2018 crop. The rotation was diverse, and showcased some crops that rarely or ever had been grown on the Palouse: Year 1. Winter Wheat, Year 2. Spring Wheat, Year 3. Proso Millet, Year 4. Oilseed Sunflowers, Year 5. Sorghum, Year 6. Garbanzo Beans.

Rotational Crop Research

In addition to looking at oats, we have done research on a variety of other rotation crops, including flaxseed, oilseed sunflowers, confectionary sunflowers, proso millet, grain sorghum, and chia. We have looked at these crops in small plots, and also at field scale in coordination with Shepherd’s Grain growers.

Additionally, Shepherd’s Grain growers teamed up with Washington State University and the University of Idaho to study quinoa and food barley production and agronomics as a result of a Western SARE grant.

Shepherd’s Grain Rotation Crop Variety Trials

WSU-Western SARE quinoa trials

WSU-Western SARE barley trials

The Nature Conservancy No-Till Research

In 2018, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) contracted Shepherd’s Grain’s Jeremy Bunch to perform research in South-Central Idaho’s irrigated agricultural areas that are dominated by tillage-based systems. The region’s cropping systems are not diverse, with malt barley and alfalfa the primary crops in rotation. The aim of the research is to introduce tillage-free and diversified crop rotation practices, along with a comprehensive economic analysis. The ultimate goal is to see the entire Southern Idaho irrigated agricultural region convert to conservation agriculture.

Mustard blooming near the mountains of Sun Valley, Idaho