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New 2002 Steep Projects

STEEP (Solutions To Environmental and Economic Problems) is a cooperative Pacific Northwest research and educational program on conservation tillage systems through the University of Idaho, Oregon State University, Washington State University, and USDA-Agricultural Research Service. It has been a national model for multi-state, multidisciplinary efforts among land grant universities, USDA-agencies, grower commodity organizations, conservation districts, and other Ag support groups and agencies to work collectively to solve regional environmental and economic problems. Funding has been provided by special Congressional grants through USDA since 1975.

The STEEP program is managed through three committees. These include: 1) a 10-member Technical Coordinating Committee of scientists from the three universities and USDA-ARS; 2) a 7-member Industry Advisory Committee of 2 growers from each state representing the grain producer and conservation district associations, and one from the pulse crop industry; and 3) an 8-member Administrative Committee representing research and extension at the 3 universities, the USDA-ARS and USDA-NRCS.

Each year, the STEEP program invites proposals on research and education projects on cropping systems technologies for direct seeding and other conservation tillage systems. Projects can be funded for 3 years with the possibility of continuing funding in the future. This longer-term funding has been critical for conducting cropping systems research projects. Sixteen research proposals were received for the 2002 funding cycle, totaling over $1,187,344. Ten proposals were selected for a total of $549,993.

The following is a listing of the new STEEP project titles (and durations and awards), investigators, and objectives of each project.

Title: Rotation Effects of Alternative Crops on Spring and Winter Wheat in Direct-Seed Cropping Systems (3 year project; $137,210)

Team: R. James Cook, WSU (crop management and supervision of farm management; Rich Allredge, WSU (statistical analyses), Bruce Frazier, WSU (remote sensing and landscape database management); Rob Gallagher, WSU (assessment of wild oat and other weeds); Dave Huggins, USDA-ARS (assessment of yield-protein relationships and soil water and nitrogen); Tim Paulitz, USDA-ARS (assessment of root diseases and soilborne pathogen); Greg Schwab, WSU (soil fertility and extension/outreach); Doug Young, WSU (agricultural economics); and Joe Yenish, WSU (extension weed scientist).

Statement of Problem to be Addressed: This project will: (1) assess the crop performance (.e.g. yield and grain protein) within rotations designed for direct-seed conditions in both a) field-scale replicated plots (PCFS), and b) across spatially diverse landscapes (CAF); (2) evaluate performance limiting or enhancing biotic and abiotic factors that contribute to rotational effects of alternative crops on subsequent direct-seed wheat with no burning; and (3) determine the economic feasibility of the different rotations on both field and within-field scales. The crop performance-limiting or enhancing factors will include the assessment of some major problems associated with continuous direct seeding, namely: stand establishment, grain yield and quality, water and N availability and use efficiency, wild oat population dynamics, soilborne root disease (Rhizoctonia, Pythium and Fusarium root rots and take-all of wheat and barley) and economic considerations. Baseline spatial data at the CAF exists for all of these variables and therefore crop rotation effects will primarily be assessed at the CAF.

Title: Nutrient Requirements of Short-season Dryland Corn Grown in Eastern Washington Using Direct-Seeding Methods (2 year project; $42,815)

Team: William Pan, WSU; Greg Schwab, WSU; Dennis Roe, USDA-NRCS, Pullman, WA. Cooperator-grower: John Aeschliman, Colfax, WA


  1. Determine optimal nitrogen rate and application timing for dryland corn production in eastern WA using direct-seeding methods.
  2. Assess the effects of added P, Zn, and S on corn yield and in-season tissue concentrations to establish sufficiency levels of nutrients most commonly deficient in eastern WA.
  3. Develop a nutrient management extension publication for dryland corn grown in eastern WA.

Title: The Role of Alternate Hosts in the Epidemiology of Ascochyta Blight of Chickpea in Reduced Tillage Cropping Systems in the Pacific Northwest (1 year; $50,000)

Team: Tobin L. Peever, WSU (fungal molecular geneticist and will be responsible for oversight of Objective 3); Lori M. Carris, WSU (mycologist and fungal biologist and will be responsible for oversight on Objectives 1 and 2); Fred J. Muehlbauer, USDA-ARS (legume breeder, who will provide oversight of the field experiments in Objectives 1 and 2 and provide equipment and field plots necessary to complete the proposed research in Objectives 1 and 2).


  1. To quantify Ascochyta rabiei infection of wheat and other alternate hosts grown in rotation with chickpea in rotational, minimum tillage or direct seeding cropping systems.
  2. To develop a specific PCR primer to detect and quantify Ascochyta rabiei infection of wheat and other hosts.
    Not found.

Title: Seasonal and Spatial Dynamics of Rodent Damage and Effectiveness of Management Options in No-till Crop Rotations in Idaho and Washington (2 years; $80,000)

Team: Rodney Sayler, WSU (conservation biologist); Gary Witmer, USDA Wildlife Services (wildlife research biologist); David Huggins, USDA-ARS (research soil scientist).


  1. Identify the species, population biology, and ecology of rodents causing crop damage.
  2. Quantify the extent of rodent damage within selected no-till conservation crop rotations and experimental tillage practices.
  3. Explore a variety of direct and indirect management actions to reduce this damage through experimental treatments on selected conservation farms and private farms.

Title: Publication of Pacific Northwest Extension Bulletin PNW 553 "Retooling Agriculture: A Report of Direct-Seed Cropping Systems Research in the Pacific Northwest" (1 year; $3,000)

Team: Roger Veseth, WSU/UI (extension conservation tillage specialist); R. James Cook, WSU (crop management and supervision of farm management)


To complete the funding needed to print 4000 full-color copies of the recently completed PNW Extension Bulletin PNW553 "Retooling Agriculture: A Report of Direct-Seed Cropping Systems Research in the Pacific Northwest".

Title: Expanding Access to PNW Direct Seed / Conservation Tillage Systems Technology (2 years; $66,359)

Team: PNW STEEP Extension Cropping Systems Specialist Team (listed here: http://pnwsteep.wsu.edu/authors/index.htm)


  1. PNW STEEP Conservation Tillage Update (newsletter)
  2. PNW Extension Conservation Tillage Handbook Series (distributed though the Update)
  3. Web Site: PNW STEEP Conservation Tillage Systems Technology Source (http://pnwsteep.wsu.edu) which includes publications 1 and 2 above, and many other information resources.
  4. PNW Direct Seed List Server (email / Internet based)
  5. Northwest Direct Seed Cropping Systems Conferences
  6. Northwest Field Days and Tours

Title: Strategies for Profitable Conservation Tillage Farming in the Pacific Northwest (3 years; $72,481)

Team: Doug Young, WSU (ag economist). Cooperators: Herb Hinman and Hong Wang (Dept. of Ag. Ec., WSU); David Bezdicek, James Cook, Bruce Frazier, Rob Gallagher, Robert Papendick, William Pan, William Schillinger, Greg Schwab, Joe Yenish (Dept. of Crop & Soil Sciences, WSU); David Huggins, Frank Young (USDA-ARS); Roger Veseth (WSU/UI), Dennis Roe (USDA-NRCS).


  1. To evaluate the economic feasibility of oil seeds, food legumes, and spring grains on conservation tillage crop rotations.
  2. To identify equitable farmland leases for conservation tillage farming systems.
  3. To assess the potential for precision weed control to cut costs in conservation tillage.
  4. To identify effective financial risk management strategies for adopting conservation tillage.
  5. To disseminate the results on profitable strategies for conservation farming to growers, policy makers, and others.

Title: Examination of Tillage Factors, Crop Type, Soils an Non-crop Habitat upon Soil Fauna and Ground Dwelling Predators in a Small Inland PNW Watershed (2 years, $40,000)

Team: Gary Chang, Jodi Johnson-Maynard, Nilsa Z. Bosque-Perez, Sandford D. Eigenbrode, Timothy D. Hatten (UI Plant Soil and Entomological Sciences Dept.). Cooperators: Stephen O. Guy (UI Plant Soil and Entomological Sciences Dept.); Wayne Jensen (local grower).


  1. Determine the ground dwelling predator fauna of wheat and spring pea grown under DS and CT, and the overlap of such fauna with that found on natural habitats.
  2. Ascertain the ground dwelling predator fauna of specific natural habitats within the Palouse.
  3. Determine the spatial relationship between soil microfauna, soil type, crop rotation, and soil fertility across two sub-watersheds under different tillage regimes.

Title: Identifying Alternate Rotation Crops for Eastern Oregon (3 years; $33,360)

Team: Dr. Stephen Machado, OSU/CBARC (dryland cropping systems agronomist), Dr. Chengci Chen, OSU/CBARC (assistant professor/senior researcher). Cooperators: Dr. Steve Petrie, OSU/CBARC (soil scientist); Dr. Dan Ball, OSU/CBARC (weed scientist); David Hamlin, OSU/Wheller Co. Extension; Sandy Macnab, OSU/Sherman Co. Extension; Jordan Maley, OSU/Gilliam Co. Extension; Bruce Nisley, OSU/CBARC (plant pathologist); Brian Tuck, OSU/Wasco Co. Extension; Dr. Don Wysocki, OSU/CBARC (soil scientist). Grower Cooperators: Chris Kasberg, Sherman Co.; Ron Thompson, Sherman Co.; David Brewer, Wasco Co.; John McElheran, Wasco Co.; Bill Miller, Wasco Co.; David Stelcer, Wasco Co.; Phil Kasier, Wasco Co.; Van Rietman, Gilliam Co.


  1. To obtain alternate crop seed from areas with similar climate to eastern Oregon and from breeders at OSu, WSU, and UI.
  2. To evaluate the adaptability of alternate crops to growing conditions in eastern Oregon.
  3. To establish basic agronomic practices of commercially promising alternate crops under reduced tillage systems.

Title: Initiating Long-term Agronomic Experiments in North-Central Oregon and South-central Washington (1 year; $13,142)

Team: Dr. Stephen Machado, OSU/CBARC (dryland cropping systems agronomist); Dr. Steve Petrie, OSU/CBARC (soil scientist). University Cooperators: Dr. Dan Ball, OSU/CBARC (weed scientist); Dr. Chengci Chen, OSu/CBARC (assistant professor/senior researcher); Dr. William Schillinger, WSU (dryland systems agronomist); Dr. Richard Smiley, OSU/CBARC (plant pathologist); Dr. Roger Veseth, WSU/UI (conservation tillage specialist); Dr. Don Wysocki, OSU/CBARC (extension soil scientist). USDA/ARS Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center Cooperators: Dr. Dale Wilkins (supervisory agricultural engineer and research leader); Dr. Stephan Albrecht (soil microbiologist); Dr. Amos Bechtel (economist); Dr. Stewart Wuest (soil scientist). Grower Cooperators: Ernie Moore, Chris Kaseberg, Tom McCoy.


  1. Establish a strong grower advisory committee that represents growers in all aspects of the proposed long-term experiments, the main objective of which is to develop sustainable cropping systems for north-central Oregon and South-central Washington.
  2. Select one or two representative sites for the proposed long-term research and characterize these sites to establish baseline data from which inferences about sustainability can actually be drawn.

Contact us: Hans Kok, (208)885-5971 | Accessibility | Copyright | Policies | WebStats | STEEP Acknowledgement
Hans Kok, WSU/UI Extension Conservation Tillage Specialist, UI Ag Science 231, PO Box 442339, Moscow, ID 83844 USA
Redesigned by Leila Styer, CAHE Computer Resource Unit; Maintained by Debbie Marsh, Dept. of Crop & Soil Sciences, WSU