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UI-led Regional Team Lands $3.4 Million USDA Grant to Help Farmers Adapt to Changing Conditions

July 21, 2017

A team of researchers led by a University of Idaho soil scientist will continue working to help wheat farmers adapt to changing conditions by testing new strategies.


The project led by soil scientist Jodi Johnson-Maynard will explore the use of winter legumes and cover crops with cattle grazing at several locations in the Inland Northwest.


The new project focuses on wheat farming and the region’s changing landscapes. It is funded by a $3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture and builds on research findings of a previous project known as Regional Approaches to Climate Change (REACCH).


Expanding on existing research collaborations among UI, Washington State University, Oregon State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service is a key strength, Johnson-Maynard said.


The goal is to help farmers diversify their crops, boost profits and increase the adaptability of wheat-based farming to future environmental changes.


Johnson-Maynard was a member and team leader of the UI-led REACCH project, which ended this year. She joined the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty in 2000.


“We’ve accumulated vast knowledge of crops and climates across the Inland Northwest so we’re not at the starting block. We have a strong foundation to build on,” she said.


The team includes agronomists, economists and insect, soil and water experts.


“By working together we have been able to garner significant support for research and extension on the resiliency of agriculture,” Johnson-Maynard said.


“Idaho agriculture is important to Idaho’s economy and essential for providing nutritious, safe and inexpensive food for consumers here and around the world,” said Janet Nelson, UI vice president for research and economic development. “University of Idaho scientists play critical roles in helping farmers and ranchers sustain their operations and protect the environment.”


The project will focus on three distinct climate zones based on precipitation and terrain. Researchers will test alternative farming strategies including adding winter peas and cover crops with livestock grazing into wheat-based crop rotations. Another goal in the driest areas of the wheat production region is increasing the diversity of crops farmed and reducing fallow.


Using cover crops to limit erosion and build soil fertility is receiving increasing interest. The project will explore the benefits of using cover crops with grazing as alternatives to spring-planted crops.


New fall-seeded pea varieties being tested will allow more flexibility in dealing with shifting environmental conditions. The project will also include the refinement of interactive computer-based models to help farmers make management decisions.


Other project leaders will include UI researchers Sanford Eigenbrode, Kurtis Schroeder and Erin Brooks; OSU researcher Clark Seavert; WSU researchers Shelley Pressley, Brian Lamb, Claudio Stockle and Ian Burke; and USDA-ARS researchers David Huggins and Rebecca McGee.

This project, Inland Pacific Northwest Wheat-based Systems: Landscapes in Transition, was funded under the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant No. 2017-68002-26819.

Media Contacts: 

Jodi Johnson-Maynard
Department of Soil and Water Systems
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Bill Loftus
Science writer
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

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The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at