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Southwest Research-Extension Center

Cropping Systems


Objectives and Goals

The objective of the Cropping Systems Research-Extension program is to address critical needs of producers and clientele in western Kansas and the surrounding Great Plains region. Goals of the program include the following: 1) help sustain agricultural production by having healthy rural communities, conserving natural resources, and remaining economically competitive; 2) identify methods of reducing off-farm input expenses, particularly irrigation, herbicides, and nitrogen fertilizer; 3) develop cropping systems that implement integrated pest management (IPM) practices for prolonging the useful life of selective herbicides, and reducing the amount and expense of pesticide applications; and 4) designing crop rotations that maximize precipitation (PUE) and fallow (FUE) use efficiency.

Current Projects


  • Radio Interview (MP3)
    K-State research agronomist John Holman talks about his new analysis of climate conditions historically and how they have influenced wheat yields in western Kansas...using over 50 years of K-State field data to determine how temperature and precipitation impacted yield trends over time. 


  • Canola Production Handbook (PDF)
    Canola is a special type of rapeseed. It differs from standard or industrial rapeseed because it has less than 2 percent erucic acid in the oil and less than 30 micromoles glucosinolate per gram of the oil-free meal. These two quality standards allow canola oil to be used as a healthy cooking oil and the meal as a high-quality protein supplement for livestock.
  • National Winter Canola Variety Trial 
    Since 2006 Garden City has been a location of the National Winter Canola Variety Trial. Results are available annually on variety performance across the central Great Plains.  

Cropping Systems

  • Efficient Crop Water Use In Kansas (PDF)
    Introduction: The Great Plains is an important center of agricultural production for both the United States and worldwide grain export. However, it is also a region that has numerous challenges to the sustainability of agricultural production, including soil losses from erosion, low precipitation in the west, intense thunderstorms, and declining aquifer levels that threaten availability of water for irrigation.  
  • Volunteer Corn in Fallow (PDF)
    Volunteer corn is a common weed in the fallow phase of wheat-corn-fallow in western Kansas and the west central Great Plains. No-till increases precipitation storage, reduces soil erosion, and often increases crop yields when compared to conventional-till. As a result, many producers have adopted no-till cropping systems that use glyphosate extensively for weed control in fallow. Because most of the corn grown is herbicide-tolerant, volunteer corn in fallow may not be controlled with glyphosate.  
  • No-till Series: Rotations and Cultural Practices (PDF)
    Introduction. A crop rotation system with optimal intensity and diversity is important for success with no-till. Without a sufficiently intense cropping system, no-till may not be profitable. Likewise, cropping systems that are too intensive can fail without no-till or some other high-residue production system in regions such as central and western Kansas that are prone to moisture stress.  

Fallow Alternatives: Cover Crops, Annual Forages, and Grain Crops


  • Summer Annual Forages: Production and Management Presentation (PDF)
    Summer annual forages are an important resource for the region’s livestock industry. Knowledge of different forage types, production and feeding systems, and best management practices are important for successful forage production. This presentation provides an overview of important considerations and current research projects.  
  • Kansas Switchgrass Production Handbook (PDF)
    Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a warmseason perennial grass indigenous to the North American tall-grass prairie but is widely distributed throughout the continent. Switchgrass was identified by the U.S. Department of Energy as a leading potential cellulosic bioenergy crop due to its large biomass production and wide range of geographical adaptation.  Learn more about its usage in Kansas.  
  • Prussic Acid Poisoning (PDF)
    Prussic acid is also known as hydrocyanic acid or hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Ingesting plants that have produced excess cyanide causes prussic acid poisoning.  Sorghums, sudangrass, sorghum–sudangrass crosses, and closely related species are most commonly associated with prussic acid poisoning.  
  • Nontraditional Forages as Emergency or Supplemental Feedstuffs (PDF)
    Despite the best plans, shortages of forage commonly occur some time during the year in Kansas.  Drought, hail, early freeze, crop failure, harvest delays,
    and unusually cold and wet winters can cause forage shortages. In response, producers may choose to buy the extra forage needed or sell livestock. But in many cases, it may be more economical to use nontraditional forages.  The following document summarizes several options for obtaining forage from nontraditional sources or in emergency situations generated by an unexpected shortage of forage.
  • Summer Annual Forages: Selection and Production Characteristics (PDF)
    Summer annual forages are warm-season grasses that tolerate hot, dry weather and are adapted to most areas of Kansas. Although most species should not be planted until the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, some can be used by 4 to 6 weeks after planting. Summer annual forages include forage sorghums, sudangrass, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, hybrid pearl millet, and foxtail millet (a.k.a. Italian, German, Hungarian, or Japanese Millet).  Selecting a type of summer annual should be based on the needs and location of the individual livestock program because they have different growth characteristics that influence how they are used. The following document summarizes characteristics of the most commonly used summer annual forages used in Kansas.  

Previous Projects


Contact Information

John Holman 

Holman, John
Cropping Systems Agronomist
4500 East Mary Street
Southwest Research-Extension Center
Garden City, KS 67846-9132 
Phone: 620-276-8286
E-mail: jholman@ksu.edu