OSU's historical plots show long-term impacts of farming

research plots
Plots planted 85 years ago in Pendleton are still advancing OSU agricultural research today. (Photo: EESC Slide Collection)

Fertilizer rates and no-till farming are studied on 85-year-old plots

Not much has stayed the same since the 1930s, but experiments at OSU's Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center in Pendleton have continued uninterrupted since the Great Depression. Among the oldest farming trials in the country, these test plots offer researchers a unique insight into how dryland farming—growing crops without irrigation—affects the land over the long haul. Dozens of test plots of wheat, barley and peas are managed with precise farming techniques. Some practices, like testing different applications of fertilizer, continue to be immediately relevant to farmers worldwide. Altogether, the experiments have yielded decades of data showing the long-term environmental costs and benefits of farming. Researchers and farmers are able to apply lessons learned from these long-term trials. Since some growing methods leave land vulnerable to wind and water erosion that carry away nutrient-rich soil, OSU researchers have demonstrated the importance of no-till farming and its impact on soil organic matter accumulation and soil health. Thanks to results from soil fertility trials, grain yields from the test plots have more than doubled since the 1930s. Scientists and growers around the world continue to contact OSU to use data from the Pendleton experiments, which are still teaching researchers 85 years later and into the foreseeable future.

Source: Stephen Machado, dryland cropping agronomist at CBARC

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