Economics of mixed farming under rotational grazing with low input system
This study was conducted at the Manitoba Zero Tillage Research Farm (MZTRA) located 17.6 kilometres north of Brandon, Manitoba. The objective was to evaluate new farming systems designed to improve economic return, sequester carbon, and reduce inputs, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions of mixed production systems. Yield and net revenue varied across MZTRA landscapes due to spatial and temporal variability of soil fertility and biophysical properties. Relative to studies with conservation tillage in the Canadian Prairies, producers can expect to achieve higher crop yields with most crops under zero tillage. Compared to crop yields reported for conventional tillage (CT) in Thin Black soil zone of Saskatchewan, spring wheat was 11 to 32% higher, winter wheat 41 to 66% higher, pea 27% higher, and flax was comparable. There were no significant differences in total input cost among annual crop rotation. Our results indicated that small-scale mixed crop and livestock operations had higher operating costs, the success of which depended on animal and environmental conditions as well as management. Hay and grazing systems also had higher risk. Among annual crops, although net revenue was higher for canola and peas, risk was also higher due to higher net revenue variation for these two crops. The findings showed that the use of zero tillage with low inputs has the potential to save energy use and improve energy use efficiency. The use of zero tillage provided significant energy savings (compared to CT reported by Zentner et al. (2004)) in on-farm use of fuel and in machine operation and manufacture. The ratio of grain, oilseed and pea yield to emission of CO2 (kg yield per kg CO2 emitted) varied considerably between crops. This ratio was similar for winter wheat and spring wheat, but not for canola and flax. Canola ratios were higher than flax (2.03 compare to 1.92 kg of flax). Peas had a higher ratio (8.47 kg), due to low fertilizer rates. Alfalfa had the highest ratio (17.8 kg yield kg CO2, due to low inputs of fertilizer and pesticides. Overall the crops and rotations studied were highly energy efficient and reduced the calculated contribution of GHGs to the environment especially when legume and N-fixing crops were incorporated.
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