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Can we manage long-term climate variability in dryland cropping systems: Dryland farmers in the northern Plains live by the weather; rainfall in particular. They tell you in ‘hundredths’ how much rain they’ve gotten from each event; conversely some stores in rural towns don’t even sell rain gauges because it’s too depressing. Rain is everything for farmers. Usually they’re worried about too little, but too much can be as big a problem. Ranchers care about temperature too. Rain creates possibility. Knowledge about variation in rainfall has value on all time scales, especially in summer, but if we could tip the odds even to 2:1 or better in guessing between multi-year drier and wetter than average cycles, that could have very significant production value for making investment decisions from fertilizer rates, to crop rotation planning and specialized equipment purchases, to multi-year land lease arrangements.
Perry Miller is a Professor of Sustainable Cropping Systems in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University – conducting diversified dryland cropping systems research there since 1998. His research focuses on systems-level water and nitrogen budgets in diversified wheat-based farming systems. Specific research emphases include no-till and organic cropping systems, pulse crop ecology, winter dicot crops, cover crops, crop energy budgets, and best management practices for greenhouse gas mitigation. Jack of all, master of none.
Program Director: Ray Callaway
Project Administrator: Todd Kipfer
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education
2500 Broadway Street
Helena, MT 59620