Table of Contents
Kephart, K.D. G.A. Murray, and D.L. Auld. 1990. Alternate crops for dryland
production systems in northern Idaho. p. 62-67. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon
(eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Alternate Crops for Dryland Production Systems in Northern Idaho*
Kenneth D. Kephart, Glen A. Murray, and Dick L. Auld
- ALTERNATE CROPS WITH NO PRODUCTION POTENTIAL
- Grain Sorghum
- ALTERNATE CROPS WITH LIMITED PRODUCTION POTENTIAL
- Mustard and Spring Rapeseed
- Lupines and Faba Beans
- COMMERCIALIZED ALTERNATE CROPS WITH LIMITED PRODUCTION POTENTIAL
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
- COMMERCIALIZED ALTERNATE CROPS WITH UNLIMITED PRODUCTION POTENTIAL
- Winter Peas
- Winter Rapeseed
- Table 1
- Table 2
- Table 3
Dryland areas in northern Idaho are among the most productive in the world.
Most areas receive greater than 56 cm (22 inches) of annual precipitation, with
90% occurring during fall, winter and spring months. These conditions combined
with mild winter conditions, allow average soft white winter wheat yields of
4,400 to 4,800 kg/ha (65 to 70 bushels per acre). Wheat yields often exceed
6700 kg/ha (100 bushels per acres) in the more productive areas.
The excellent adaptation of winter wheat, combined with production-oriented
government programs, has intensified wheat production in northern Idaho. Wheat
is often produced 2 out of 3, or 1 out of 2 years of rotation with either
spring peas or lentils. Disease, weed and insect problems related to shortened
rotations, and increased efforts for erosion control have increased production
costs. Increased interest in low-cost input management practices and changes
to conservation-oriented government programs are also providing further
incentive for diversifying rotation schemes.
A lack of commercially viable alternate crops has restricted the number of
options available to northern Idaho farmers as they have coped with these
problems. In 1976, the University of Idaho began a systematic search for new
crops adapted for production in northern Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.
Evaluation criteria for identifying potential crop species in experimental
field trials included:
Alternate crop development in northern Idaho has concentrated on oilseed and
grain legume species (Table 1). Development of an oilseed industry in northern
Idaho could help satisfy regional demand for vegetable oils by the food
processing industry, and possibly exploit existing oilseed export markets to
Pacific Rim nations. Expanded grain legume production could help offset the
current importation of high protein animal feed supplements from other regions
of the United States and Canada. The symbiotic nitrogen fixing capability of
legumes grown in rotation may also reduce fertilizer nitrogen requirement of
non-legume crops. Alternate crops discussed in this paper (Tables 1, 2, 3) are
grouped according to: (1) species offering no production potential; (2) species
offering limited production potential; (3) commercialized species with limited
production potential; and (4) commercialized species with unlimited production
potential based on ten years of field evaluations in northern Idaho.
Grain sorghum is a warm-season summer annual with poor adaptation to the winter
rainfall cycle and cooler temperatures of the Pacific Northwest. The earliest
maturing hybrids obtained from mid-western states have failed to produce mature
seed in northern Idaho.
Quinoa is a spring-seeded broadleaf cereal native to the high plains of the
Andean mountains of South America (Langer and Hill 1982). In 1985 and 1986,
quinoa cultivars adapted for production at elevations above 2,300 m in Colorado
failed to produce at Moscow, Idaho (elevation 800 m). All quinoa cultivars
tested in northern Idaho were very indeterminate and late to mature. All
cultivars failed to produce viable seed before killing frosts occurred in the
fall. Heavy lygus bug (Lygus spp.) infestations occurred both years,
requiring repeated insecticide applications. While quinoa has shown promise as
an alternate crop for production areas at higher elevations in central
Colorado, existing cultivars of quinoa have shown poor adaptation to northern
Day neutral soybean cultivars developed for production in southern Canada
expressed delayed flowering and maturation due to cool night time temperatures
often experienced throughout the growing season in northern Idaho (Auld et al.
1978). Late maturing soybeans were exposed to fall precipitation, which
reduced crop quality. Late maturation also interfered with establishment of
fall sown grain or cover crops. As soybeans require processing for their use
as a feed grain or oilseed crop, market potential in northern Idaho is limited
by the lack of processing facilities.
Meadowfoam is a winter annual species native to the coastal areas of the
western United States Jolliff et al. 1981). The seed of meadowfoam can be
crushed to yield an oil high in eicosenoic acid (20:1) used for industrial
processes. Meadowfoam is very tolerant of wet soil conditions, and has shown
promise as an agronomic crop in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon.
Inadequate winterhardiness, prostrate growth habit, and excessive shatter have
severely limited meadowfoam yields in northern Idaho.
Cultivars of mustard and spring rapeseed evaluated in northern Idaho were
developed in Canada and North Dakota for areas with greater summer rainfall.
Experimental yields at Moscow, Idaho have seldom exceeded 1,000 kg/ha. Under
northern Idaho conditions, mustard and spring rapeseed did not flower until
late June or early July, exposing pod development and seed maturation periods
to typically hot and dry weather. Flea beetle and lygus bug infestations
further reduced yields, and increased production cost by frequent insecticide
applications. Neither spring rapeseed or mustard are competitive with existing
rotational crops under northern Idaho environments. Small contract acreages of
spring mustard are grown in the region for the condiment industry. Spring
rapeseed may be better adapted to cooler, irrigated regions of southern Idaho
where spring wheat varieties are competitive with winter wheat.
Lupines are spring sown grain legumes grown for oil and feed in Europe and
Australia. Lupines possess an upright growth habit attractive for direct
harvesting, but their large seed size necessitate high seeding rates and make
proper establishment with commercial small grain drills difficult. Higher
seeding costs limit lupine production for green manure or forage purposes.
Like soybeans, lupines have not flowered in northern Idaho until moisture and
temperature stress periods of July and August. No serious insect problems have
been observed, but powdery mildew (Microsphaera penicillata var.
ludens) and a bacterial pod blight have been observed on lupine crops
grown in northern Idaho. Lupine yields in northern Idaho have averaged less
than 900 kg/ha.
- Produce economic returns equal to or greater than yields from existing production areas.
- Adaptation to existing equipment and rotations.
- Possess existing or potential markets to allow development of commercial production.
Faba beans are cool season grain legumes that also possess an upright growth
habit. Like lupines, most faba beans possess a large seed size that increases
production costs and establishment problems with existing small grain
equipment. Faba bean seedlings are susceptible to feeding damage by pea leaf
weevils (Sitona lineatus L.). Several foliar and seed blights
indigenous to spring pea production areas will also infect faba beans. Faba
bean seed yields have been as high as 1800 kg/ha, but inconsistent yields and
poor market opportunities have limited production. Canadian faba bean
production has dwindled due to limited export markets. Winter-hardy faba bean
cultivars mature earlier and may produce more consistent yields under northern
Idaho conditions. Evaluation of winter-hardy faba bean cultivars possessing
smaller seed size was initiated in the fall of 1988.
Experimental yields of oilseed flax (cv. Linott) in the northernmost counties
of northern Idaho have been from 800 to 1800 kg/ha (Auld et al. 1980), compared
to 600 kg/ha usually achieved in North Dakota. However, a lack of commercial
processing facilities in the Pacific Northwest has made flax uneconomical for
commercial production. Flax also produces minimal crop residue, limiting it's
adaptation to soils with low erosion potential.
The oil from crambe seed is high in erucic acid. This type of oil is used to
manufacture synthetic lubricants and plastics. Crambe yields have averaged
1,800 to 2,200 kg/ha in trials conducted at Moscow, Idaho in 1983 and 1984.
Average seed oil content has been 35%. Existing cultivars lack uniform
maturity, edible meal characteristics, and shatter easily. Commercial oilseed
crushing facilities for crambe are not currently available in the region.
Buckwheat is a broadleaf cereal marginally adapted to the warmer dryland cereal
production areas of northern Idaho (Auld et al. 1986). Buckwheat is more
drought tolerant than many other alternate crops, but is sensitive to frosts
and requires a relatively long growing season to mature in this area. Swathing
buckwheat provides uniform maturity and improves crop quality, but further adds
to production costs. Export markets to Japan for sorba noodle production do
exist for commercial buckwheat crops of acceptable quality.
Sallower has been grown periodically in the Pacific Northwest for the past 30
years (Auld et al. 1987c, Hang et al. 1982, Murray et al. 1981). Sallower
production can readily use existing equipment, but is only moderately adapted
to the warmer dryland cereal production areas of northern Idaho. Sallower is
the most heat and drought tolerant of the alternate agronomic crops
commercially available. While sallower blooms and sets seed during periods of
declining soil moisture and high temperatures in July and August, yields of
2,300 to 2,800 kg/ha have been obtained by commercial production. Growing
seasons are usually too short for sallower production at higher elevations. In
rotation, sallower stubble provides excellent snow trapping for good soil and
water conservation in combination with other conservation practices.
Commercially produced sallower seed contains 32 to 52 percent oil. Selected
cultivars have been modified by breeding programs to produce improved edible
oils with good market potential. A small number of sallower acres are
contracted each year in northern Idaho to serve California crushers.
Development of earlier maturing cultivars could improve yield potential of
sallower in northern Idaho, and offer opportunity for expanded commercial
Commercial sunflower hybrids can be grown in the warmer dryland areas of
northern Idaho (Murray et al. 1978, Murray et al. 1986). Late maturity; dry,
hot summer environments; limited production experience; and lack of suitable
equipment have limited the seed production potential of sunflowers. Sunflower
silage production has been more successful. Dryland sunflower silage yields
adjusted to 70% moisture content have averaged nearly 30 metric tons/ha at
Moscow, Idaho from 1978 to 1980. Feeding trials have shown sunflower silage is
an acceptable forage for growing beef steers, dairy heifers and dairy cows in
mid to late lactation.
Chickpeas are large-seeded grain legumes that offer higher return than
traditional peas or lentils (Murray et al. 1987). Both domestic and export
markets exist. The introduction of the California cultivar 'UC-5', combined
with good market development, led to a developing chickpea industry in northern
Idaho in the early 1980s. Two cultivars, 'Lyons', and 'Aztec', were developed
and released by the University of Idaho to expand existing markets (Auld et al.
Ascochyta leaf blight (Ascochyta rabiei) is a seedborne disease that has
caused catastrophic losses to this industry in recent years. To reduce disease
inoculum levels, a self-imposed industry moratorium on chickpea production was
enforced in 1988, and will be continued in 1989. Adoption of field and seed
sanitation standards combined with resistant varieties may allow this industry
The inclusion of a fall planted legume into crop rotations offers the advantage
of atmospheric N2 fixation combined with a winter cover to help reduce soil
erosion (Murray et al. 1987). Winter peas have been grown in northern Idaho
for over 50 years, but increased disease and insect pressures threaten
continued production. Winter peas can be harvested for seed, combined with
winter cereals for silage production (Murray et al. 1985), grown for green
manure to restore depleted soil organic matter (Auld et al. 1982), or combined
with winter cereals for harvesting as a multiple seed crop (Murray and Swenson
1984). Commercial seed yields have varied from 1,000 to 3,400 kg/ha during the
past 10 years. Continued production of winter peas in northern Idaho has
depended on development of improved cultivars (Auld et al. 1983), and improved
cultural management recommendations (Murray et al. 1984b, Murray et al. 1987).
Winter rapeseed is an oilseed crop belonging to the mustard family. Winter
rapeseed has shown the greatest potential for adaptation in northern Idaho
among all alternate crop species, largely due to the potential diversity of use
as a rotational crop. Winter rapeseed provides excellent soil erosion control,
and reduces disease problems in cereal and legume rotation crops.
Seed of rapeseed can be crushed to produce an oil selected for two distinct
uses; edible oil for human consumption, or industrial oil for producing
synthetic lubricants, varnishes, and plastics. The defatted meal of "Canola"
quality cultivars can be used as a high protein feed supplement. Used as a
green manure crop, the elevated glucosinolate levels found in the green tissue
of specific cultivars may suppress soilborne pathogens of cereals, potatoes,
and legumes. Winter rapeseed can produce 10 to 20 metric tons of dry forage/ha
possessing 9 to 12% protein levels. Rapeseed oil could also serve as
alternative fuel oil in times of emergency (Peterson et al. 1988).
Commercial winter rapeseed yields have varied from 2,300 to 4,500 kg/ha in
northern Idaho. Commercial seed oil content has varied from 42 to 48%.
Rapeseed crushing facilities do not currently exist in the Pacific Northwest
for either edible or industrial types. Markets do exist for whole rapeseed
exported to several Asian countries, particularly Japan. Small domestic
markets exist for industrial rapeseed shipped to mid-west processors.
Over the past ten years, a comprehensive set of management recommendations
including cultivar selection, seeding rates, planting dates, row spacings, weed
control, soil fertility, and harvesting have been developed for winter rapeseed
production in northern Idaho (Murray et al. 1984a). In addition, commercial
cultivars have been developed with reduced glucosinolate levels in their meals
and with improved fatty acid compositions to enhance their industrial and
edible oil market values (Auld et al. 1987a, Auld et al. 1987b).
As new crop species are identified for potential adaptation in northern Idaho,
preliminary evaluation trials are conducted. Sufficient management information
must first be generated to permit pilot production of promising crop species.
More extensive research is then conducted for species showing greatest
commercial potential. Extension programs also are implemented to assure
successful production of these crops by area growers.
The development of new cultivars and improved management practices have made
winter peas more competitive with existing rotational crops. New winter
rapeseed cultivars with an expanding range of markets including edible oils,
industrial oils, green manure, forage, and alternative fuel oils will continue
to be developed. Evaluating the agronomic adaptation of new rapeseed
cultivars, while improving production management recommendations also will
- Auld, D.L., G.A. Murray, J.A. Benson, E.F. Mink, C.G. Van Slyke, and B.W.
Studer. 1978. Alternate crops for northern Idaho. 1977. Univ of Idaho Agr.
Expt. Sta. Prog. Rpt. 203.
- Auld, D.L., G.A. Murray, G.F. Carnahan, J.A. Benson, and B.W. Studer. 1980.
Flax, mustard, spring rapeAlternate crops for cooler regions of Idaho. Univ
of Idaho Current Inf. Ser. 524.
- Auld, D.L., B.L. Bettis, M.J. Dial, and G.A. Murray. 1982a. Austrian winter pea
as a green manure crop in northern Idaho. Agron. J. 74:1047-1050.
- Auld. D.L., G.A. Murray, M.J. Dial, J.E. Crock, and L.E. O'Keeffe. 1983.
Registration of Glacier field pea. Crop Sci. 23:803.
- Auld. D.L., J.E. Crock, M.J.S. lbernagel, B.L. Bettis, and G. Singh. 1985.
Registration of Lyons and Aztec chickpeas. Crop Sci. 25:365.
- Auld, D.L., R.L. Mahler, and K.D. Kephart. 1986. Production of buckwheat in
northern Idaho. Univ of Idaho Current Inf. Ser. 780.
- Auld, D.L., K.A. Mahler, J.C. Crock, and B.L. Bettis. 1987a. Registration of
Cascade rapeseed. Crop Sci. 27:1309-1310.
- Auld, D.L., K.A. Mahler, B.L. Bettis, and J.C. Crock. 1987b. Registration of
Bridger rapeseed. Crop Sci. 27:1310.
- Auld, D.L., G.A. Murray, and F.V. Pumphrey. 1987c. Alternative crops in
conservation tillage systems. p. 137-156. In: L.F. Elliot (ed.)
STEEP-Conservation concepts and accomplishments. USDA/ARS, Pullman,
- Hang, A.N., K.J. Morrison, and R. Parker. 1982. Sallower in central Washington.
Wash. State Agric. Exp. Sta. Bul. 1065.
- Jolliff, G.D., I.J. Tinsley, W. Calhoun, and J.H. Crane. 1981. Meadowfoam
(Limnanthes alba): Its research and development as a potential new
oilseed crop for the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Ore. State Univ. Agric. Exp.
Sta. Bull. 648.
- Langer, R.H.M., and G.D. Hill. 1982. Agricultural plants. 1st ed. Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, Great Britain
- Murray, G.A., D.L. Auld, J.A. Benson, C.G. Van Slyke, B.W Studer, and E.W
Owens. 1978. Potential sunflower production in Idaho. Univ of Idaho Current
Inf. Ser. 434.
- Murray, G.A., D.L. Auld, and G.A. Lee. 1981. Sallower production in northern
IdahoVarieties, nitrogen fertilization and herbicides. Univ of Idaho Current
Inf. Ser. 559.
- Murray, G.A., and J. B. Swensen. 1984. Intercropping Austrian winter peas and
winter cereals for seed. Univ of Idaho Current Inf. Ser. 749.
- Murray, G.A., D.L. Auld, L.E. O'Keeffe, and D.C. Thill. 1984a. Winter rape
production practices in northern Idaho. Univ of Idaho Agr. Expt. Sta. Bul.
- Murray, G.A., J.B. Swensen, and D.L. Auld. 1984b. Influence of seed size on the
performance of Austrian winter field peas. Agron. J. 76:595-598.
- Murray, G.A., D.L. Auld, and J.B. Swensen. 1985. Winter pea/winter cereal
mixtures as potential forage crops in northern Idaho. Univ of Idaho Agr. Expt.
Sta. Bul. 638.
- Murray, G.A., D.L. Auld, V.H. Thomas, and B.D. Brown. 1986. Sunflowers for
silage in Idaho. Univ of Idaho Agric. Expt. Sta. Bul. 652.
- Murray, G.A, K.D. Kephart, L.E. O'Keeffe, D.L. Auld, and R.H. Callihan. 1987.
Dry pea, lentil and chickpea production in northern Idaho. Univ of Idaho Agric.
Exp. Sta. Bull. 664.
- Peterson, C.L, D.L. Auld, and R.A. Korus. I988. Use of vegetable oil as a fuel
in time of emergency. Univ of Idaho Agric. Exp. Sta. Misc. Series 111.
*Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station Contribution. 88762.
Table 1. Alternate agronomic crop species evaluated at the University
of Idaho from 1977 to 1988.
|Winter rape||Brassica napus L.||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Sunflower||Helianthus annuus L.||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Sallower||Carthamus tinctorius L.||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Mustard||B. juncea (L.) Czerniak||x||x||x
|Spring rape||B. campestris L.||x||x||x|
|Crambe||Crambe abyssinica L.||x||x||x||x|
|Flax||Linum usitatissimum L.||x||x|
|Sorghum||Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench.||x|
|Lupines||Lupinus albus (L.) Medit.||x||x||x|
|Faba beans||Vicia faba L.||x||x||
|Soybeans||Glycine max (L.) Merr.||x||x|
|Winter Pea||Pisum sativum subsp. arvense (L.) Poir.||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||
|Chickpeas||Cicer arietinum L.||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Buckwheat||Fagapyrum esculentum Moench.||x||x|
|Meadowfoam||Limnanthes alba (L.) Hartweg ex Benth.||x||x|
|Quinoa||Chenopodium quinoa Willd.||x||x|
Table 2. Potential erosion control, equipment needs and end-use of
commercialized alternate agronomic crops in traditional fall grain-spring
legume areas of northern Idaho.
zRequired for semidwarf cultivars.
|Specialized equipment requirements||Commodity end-uses|
|Winter rapeseed||Excellent||None||Seed||Forage, green manure|
|Winter peas||Moderate||Pea headerz||Seed||Silage, green manure|
|Sunflower||Moderate||Unit planter, |
yEither unit planters or conventional grain drills capable of handling soybeans
required for chickpeas.
Table 3. Summary of planting practices for alternate agronomic crops
adapted for commercial production in northern Idaho.
zplants per meter2.
Crop||Planting date||Seeding rate (kg/ha)||Row spacing (cm)||Maturity date|
|Winter rapeseed||Aug. 1-15||8-11||18||Aug. 1-15|
|Winter peas||Sept. 1-15||18||Aug. 1-15|
|Sallower||Apr. 15-May 1||28||18||Sept. 1-30|
|Sunflower||Apr. 15-May 10||52-75y||Sept. 25-30|
|Chickpea||Apr. 15-May 10||18||Sept. 1-15|
yRow spacing must match harvest equipment.
Last update February 12, 1997