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Best Bets for High Residue Farming in the Irrigated Columbia Basin

Posted by andrew.mcguire | March 14, 2014

When considering the risk of using high residue farming in the Columbia Basin, there are some crops that are high risk and some that are lower risk.

Higher risk crops

  • Grain and silage corn; in these long season crops,decreased yields can be expected if emergence is delayed  because of coolers soil temperatures. However, strip-till after low residue crops, or after  high residue crops where residue cover has been decreased through management, can work.
  • Spring wheat; in the Columbia Basin, cooler soil temperatures can delay emergence, slow development, and push flowering  into warmer periods which can reduce yields.
  • Peas; cooler soil temperatures can delay emergence increasing the risk of soilborne seedling disease problems and also causing timing problems with green pea harvest for processing.

Lower risk crops, by planting season:

Early summer

  • Dry beans, single crop and double cropped after 1st cutting hay; soil temperatures are not a concern, residue levels are low after hay crops.


  • Sweet corn and other double crops ; high residue farming, either direct seeding or strip-till systems, allow faster planting which gives a longer growing season.

Late summer and fall

  • Alfalfa, timothy, winter wheat; soil temperatures are not a concern. However, fresh crop residues are more difficult to cut than those that decompose some overwinter. The dearth of no-till drills can limit these options.

These lists are based on my experience, research in other regions, and what farmers tell me. Do you agree, disagree? Let me know.