Date of Award:

5-2009

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Plants, Soils, and Climate

Advisor/Chair:

Jennifer Reeve

Abstract

One of the more challenging aspects of organic farming is the development of an appropriate fertility plan, which may include crop rotation, cover crops, and/or soil amendments. When fertility is maintained by applying manure and/or compost, a pressing question is how much should be used. A framework was developed to address this question based on the idea of a decay series, which is a sequence of numbers quantifying the effects of compost on crop yield over a multi-year period. Prior research has focused on decay series expressed in nitrogen fertilizer equivalents. Given this information, I show how to calculate what manure/compost rates are needed to meet the nitrogen targets in a multi-crop rotation. Analogous results are presented for when the objective is profit rather than yield maximization.

The planning framework is then generalized to include decay series where the carryover effects of manure/compost are measured, not against nitrogen fertilizer, but against new applications of the amendment. This change of basis, from nitrogen fertilizer equivalents to manure/compost equivalents, allows for field research on organically certified land and quantifies non-nutritive effects in a more meaningful way. Two case studies are presented to illustrate how this new type of decay series may be estimated and used to optimize crop production. By using data from a continuous corn (Zea mays L.) system amended with cattle manure slurry, the case study in estimation explores the methodological challenges that arise when the yield response to nitrogen fertilizer is not available as a benchmark. The case study in optimization looks at profit-maximizing compost rates for dryland, organic wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in northern Utah.

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