Document Type


Publication Date



alfalfa, farming methods, tilling, alternative farming


South Dakota State University (SDSU) has been conducting research trials since 1985 at its Northeast Research Station (near Watertown, S.D. ) to compare various conventional , reduced tillage , and low chemical input ("alternative") farming systems . In one set of comparisons, Conventional and Ridge Till systems consisting of rotated corn, soybeans , and spring wheat are compared with an Alternative (no purchased chemical input) system consisting of rotated oats , alfalfa , soybeans, and corn. The alfalfa is just harvested one year (the year after under seeding in oats) in this system . Economics results for the first 5 years of comparing these systems are reported under Study I in Mends, et al. (1989) and Dobbs and Mends (1990). In those comparisons, the Alternative farming system was the most profitable system in 2 out of the 5 years and its 5-year average profitability was the highest of the three systems. A question that arises out of this analysis concerns whether it is simply having alfalfa in the crop mix, rather than the rotational effect of alfalfa, which made the Alternative system more profitable than the other systems in 1985-1989. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to determine what the inclusion of alfalfa in the Conventional and Ridge Till whole farm systems would do to the net returns of those systems , in comparison to the Alternative system. Crop mix, cultural practices, yields, selling prices and Federal farm program provisions all affect the net returns of these farming systems. Here, we wish to isolate the crop mix effect of including alfalfa in the whole farm plans.


The research leading to this report has been supported by the SDSU Agricultural Experiment Station and by U.S.D.A. Low-input/Sustainable Agriculture (LISA) Grant LI-88-12.


Department of Economics, South Dakota State University

Series Number


Number of Pages