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 agriculture support groups and agencies to work collectively to solve regional environmental and economic problems. Funding has been provided by special Congressional appropriations through USDA since 1975.
The STEEP program is managed through by three committees. These include: 1) a 10-member Technical Coordinating Committee of scientists from the three universities and USDA-ARS; 2) a 8-member Industry Advisory Committee of 2 growers from each state representing the grain producer and conservation district associations, respectively, one from the pulse crop industry, and one from the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association; 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. Eight proposals were received for the 2006 funding cycle totaling $1,372,846. Seven proposals were selected for a total of $566,333, plus administrative costs for a total of $591,501.
The following is a listing of the new STEEP titles, durations, awards, investigators, and objectives of each project.
Title: Developing Profitable and Sustainable Cropping Systems for North-Central Oregon and South-Central Washington: Phase II (3 years, $130,000).
Team: Stephen Machado, Assistant Professor, Dryland Cropping Systems Agronomist; Steve Petrie, Professor, Soil Scientist; Dr. Dick Smiley, Professor, Plant Pathologist; Dan Ball, Associate Professor, Weed Scientist (all from Oregon State University).
1. Develop profitable and sustainable cropping systems for north-central Oregon and south-central Washington.
2. Develop systems that increase residue cover, increase soil OM and biological activity, increase water infiltration and available soil moisture, reduce wind and water erosion, reduce soil water evaporation, reduce pests, and sustain soil and crop productivity.
Title: Developing Chemical Fallow Systems for Intermediate Rainfall Inland PNW Environments (3 years, $140,000).
Team: Daniel A. Ball, Associate Professor, Oregon State University; Joseph P. Yenish, Associate Professor, Washington State University; Mary Corp, Associate Professor, Oregon State University.
1. Compare the effects of fallowing method, including systems utilizing a sweep undercutter alone and in combination with rod weeding, chemical fallow, and conventional fallow; on seed-zone soil moisture, soil residue cover, weed control, and subsequent wheat crop growth response and grain yield in winter wheat – fallow environments in two intermediate-rainfall locations.
2. Compare weed control effectiveness from various chemical fallow herbicide treatment regimes in intermediate-rainfall PNW environments, and evaluate subsequent wheat crop response and yield.
3. Collect data to assess the economic viability of various reduced/no tillage fallow systems. An economic analysis will be completed at the termination of the project.
Title: Improving Genetic Resistance to Cephalosporium Stripe of Wheat through Field Screening and Molecular Mapping with Novel Genetic Stocks (3 years, $75,000).
Team: Chris Mundt, Professor, Botany and Plant Pathology Oregon State University; C. James Peterson, Professor, Crop and Soil Science, Oregon State University.
1. Conduct field evaluation of progeny from single and three-way crosses of PNW wheat cultivars with sources of Cephalosporium resistance from Europe.
2. Evaluate molecular markers for Cephalosporium stripe resistance and the potential for marker- assisted selection.
3. Estimate the level of resistance required to attain minimal yield loss caused by Cephalosporium stripe.
Title: Identifying Spring Habit Specialty Barley Varieties for Direct-Seeding and Development of Winter Habit Forms (3 years, $128,333).
Team: Steve Petrie, Professor of Soils and Superintendent, Oregon State
University/Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center; Patrick Hayes, Barley Breeder, Professor of Crop Science, Oregon State University.
1. Screen available spring specialty barley varieties and advanced lines for adaptation to direct-seed production in the intermediate and low precipitation zones.
2. Develop winter specialty barley varieties that are adapted to direct seed production in the intermediate and low precipitation areas.
Title: ED-STEEP: Education Solutions to Environmental and Economic Problems (1 year, $25,000).
Team: Mark A. Quinn and Catherine A. Perillo, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University.
1. To further develop a series of standards-based lessons, learning activities, and other information, based on the accomplishments and issues addressed by the STEEP Program, which can be incorporated into secondary and post-secondary science curriculum. The education material will continue to focus on biology, environmental sciences, chemistry, physics, and agricultural sciences.
2. To evaluate the lesson plans, learning activities, and education material developed for
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, $43,000).
Team: Tobin L. Peever and M.I. Chilvers, Washington State University; Fred J. Muehlbauer, USDA-ARS, Washington State University.
1. To quantify Ascochyta rabiei infection of wheat and other non-hosts grown in rotation with chickpea in rotational, minimum tillage or direct seeding cropping systems.
2. To determine the ability of A. rabiei to reproduce on wheat in rotational, minimum tillage and direct seeding cropping systems.
3. To develop a specific PCR primer to detect and quantify Ascochyta rabiei infection of wheat and other non-hosts.
Title: STEEP Impact Assessment Project (1 year, $25,000).
Team: Hans Kok, Conservation Tillage Specialist, University of Idaho and Washington State University; Don Wysocki, Oregon State University.
1. Assess the impact of STEEP-funded research on soil erosion, soil, air and water quality, and economics of conservation tillage practices in the Pacific Northwest.