Adopting Cover Crop Systems

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This is a slightly modified version of the presentation that I shared as an NRCS webinar on 6/12/2013

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Adopting Cover Crop Systems

  1. 1. Adopting Cover Crop SystemsDollars, Sense and Other ConsiderationsJoel GruverSchool of AgricultureWestern Illinois University
  2. 2. Last year I shared a link to the proceedings for this conference on a farmer forum
  3. 3. > 60 articles~ 5 include socio-economic analysis
  4. 4. It concerns me that many of the questions we askabout cover crops today were asked 20 years ago,but not pursued aggressively. Was it due to a lackof funding, a lack of grower interest, or was itpart of a great conspiracy of some sort?Terry Taylor - Geff, IL
  5. 5. There are many reasons why cover crops are not morewidely used.... some like competition for soil moisturemay be unresolvable in drier climates without irrigation...other cover crop stumbling blocks are engineeringproblems, crop breeding problems orawareness/education problems that should be solvable.The fundamental question that Terry was asking however,was not so much why arent cover crops more widelyused but rather why havent we made more progress insolving the solvable problems related to cover crops.
  6. 6. $What is innovation??VSThis type of innovationmust be used on millionsof acres to pay for R&DHome grown innovation
  7. 7. adopt ≠ adaptSome farmers are early adoptersSome farmers are master adaptersFarmers that make cover crops work tend tobe master adapters!
  8. 8. Cover crops require more managementthan broadly adapted off-the shelf technologiesWow...cover cropsare not idiot-proof!
  9. 9. Can you think of any agtechnologies that substitutefor management skill?
  10. 10. Major constraints on CC adoption in the past 20 years*Mainstreaming of conservation tillage - soil cover with dead cropresidues has come to be viewed as an adequate erosion control strategyby many farmers and conservationists*Shifts in farm scale and enterprises (increased farm size and geographicspread, focus on just corn and soybeans, reduced #s of grazing animals)marginalized interest in cover crops*Interest that was triggered by the energy crisis in the 70s, the Midwestfarm crisis of the 80s and other developments during this era wasdampened by the relatively low and stable crop and input prices in the90s*Farmers that survived the Farm Crisis dominate the decision making onCorn Belt farms today and avoid practices that they perceive to add risk
  11. 11. • Only 11% used cover crops within past 5 years.• Only 8% planted cover crops on their farm in the fall of 2005.Only 4.8% in IA.• 43% using conservation practices with cost sharing, 57% w/out.• 56% said they would use cover crops with cost-sharing
  12. 12. At the 2013 Ag Connect Expo & Summit (ACES) inKansas City a survey conducted by Case IH, foundthat 85 percent of the 1,109 producer respondentswere considering new cropping practices andtechnologies for this year’s growing season…COVER CROPS were the most frequently mentionedfarming practice that will be tried for the first time in2013 with 24 percent of respondents planning toplant them!andjust 5 years later
  13. 13. So whatsparked thecurrentcover croprevolution?Some farmers have been using CC for > 20 years
  14. 14. ?USDAinitiativeshaveplayedasupportingrolebutdidnotsparkcurrentinterest
  15. 15. No chapter on cover crop economics !
  16. 16. CC radishes are not new to Sugar Beet areas but over the past 5 years havecaptured the attention of Corn Belt farmers like no other CC to dateDigital cameras? Internet forums?
  17. 17. 11 threads, 78 posts, > 39,500 views in the last weekThreads withthe wordradish
  18. 18. The internet has played a key rolein the CC revolution!!!
  19. 19. ~ 160 profiles since 2008New economics Qs in 2012
  20. 20. BarefallowKaspar et al. J. Environ. Qual. 36:1503-1511The scientific basis for cover crops is strong!but has been for decades
  21. 21. > 15,000 CCAshave receivedscience-basedinfo about CC
  22. 22. The Midwest Cover CropsField Guide is now availablefrom the Purdue ExtensionEducation Store.Individual copies cost $5 each.Boxes of 25 copies are$112.50--a 10 percentdiscount.You can order copies of this136-page guide now byclicking on the links above orby calling the Education storetoll free: (888) EXT-INFO (398-4636, extension 46794).
  23. 23. 2011
  24. 24. The Howard Buffett Foundationhas provided an infusion of $for conservation ag initiativesincluding CC conferences
  25. 25. Profiles of cover crop integration within large scale agriculture
  26. 26. A recent survey byFarm Futuresmagazine of morethan 1,000 farmersfound those on thecutting edge ofconservation wereactually moreprofitable thanother farmers.In short, it ispossible to be bothgreen and gold!
  27. 27. Where wouldthese #s betoday?
  28. 28. > 40 photos taken throughout 2012by Lynn Betts
  29. 29. This spring, data showed that the nitrate concentrationsin water flowing out of my tile were consistently morethan 50% less than the water in Eagle Creek.
  30. 30. If there is going to be a significant attempt to slash the use of water, fossil fuels,fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides -- the resource-sucking carbon andchemical footprint that has come to define the modern agro-industrial complex --the bulk of that effort will have to emerge from the operations of large-scale,conventional farms.NRDCEven as the power of the American food movement swells, organic farms still make upless than 1 percent of this countrys cropland. The unignorable presence of that other99 percent has forced many environmentalists to a singularly pragmatic conclusion:
  31. 31. Traditional mission ofenvironmental organizations
  32. 32. PROFITABILITYAt a cost of just $38 per acre, the winter rye Tom planted provided$85 per acre worth of spring feed for his cattle, providing Tom aprofit of $47 per acre from his cover crops.Tom and his neighbors hired a pilot to apply rye seed to their fields.They planted 75 pounds of rye seed per acre, at a cost of $18 peracre. The helicopter and pilot’s time cost $20 per acre, so total costsof seeding were about $38 per acre. The rye cover crop producedforage for 16 days of grazing for 25 pairs of cow/calves in the fallfrom October 25 through November 10.In the spring he grazed 80 cows for 21 days from April 30 to May 20.Tom saved about $5,600 in spring feed costs through grazing 66acres of cover cropped fields, and yields of the following crops weremaintained.
  33. 33. IA NRCS
  34. 34. CC are not currently topranking CSP enhancements
  35. 35. Cost accounting forcover crops
  36. 36. Direct costsvs.Indirect costsvs.Opportunity costs
  37. 37. Material costs•seed•inoculant•herbicide•fertilizerOperational costs•establishing•terminating•managing residuesDIRECT COSTS
  38. 38. Vendor Cereal rye AnnualryegrassHairy vetch Medium redclover1 (WI) 0.188 0.52 (0.69) 1.60 (1.98) 1.22 (1.62)2 (IL) 0.147 (0.179) 0.47 (0.63) 1.42 (1.65)3 (MN) 0.153 (0.171) 0.50 (0.56) 1.70 (1.90) 1.66 (1.84)4 (NE) 0.157 (0.179) 0.55 (0.65) 2.10 (2.50) 1.65 (1.95)5 (IL) (0.213) (0.75) (2.20) (2.60)6 (IL) 0.188 (0.214) (0.70)7 (MO) 0.197 0.46 1.47 1.218 (IL) (0.20) (0.60) (1.80) (1.75)9 (IA) (0.195) (0.62) (2.00) 2.0010 (IN) (0.239) (0.75) (2.20)11(ILfarmer)*0.125 0.48 1.05Results of cover crop seed price surveyPrices were obtained through directcommunication with vendors via phone oremail during September 2010. Pricesrepresent cheapest variety available (oftenVNS). Wholesale and retail prices wererequested when available. Prices inparentheses are retail prices. All otherprices are wholesale prices.
  39. 39. Performance over Price• Buy CC seed on value not priceVendor Cereal rye AnnualryegrassHairy vetch Medium redcloverWI 0.188 0.52 (0.69) 1.60 (1.98) 1.22 (1.62)IL1 0.147 (0.179) 0.47 (0.63) 1.42 (1.65)MN 0.153 (0.171) 0.50 (0.56) 1.70 (1.90) 1.66 (1.84)NE1 0.157 (0.179) 0.55 (0.65) 2.10 (2.50) 1.65 (1.95)IL2 (0.213) (0.75) (2.20) (2.60)IL3 0.188 (0.214) (0.70)MO 0.197 0.46 1.47 1.21IL4 (0.20) (0.60) (1.80) (1.75)IA (0.195) (0.62) (2.00) 2.00IN (0.239) (0.75) (2.20)(IL farmer) 0.125 0.48 1.05
  40. 40. How much isgoodtechnicalsupportworth toyou?
  41. 41. http://www.greencoverseed.com/
  42. 42. Field operation IA* IL IN* MO*Fertilizer buggy 4.15 (1.50-7.50)4.72 (3.07-6.37) 4.97 (3-15) fert6.02 (3.50-15)fert+seedHarrowing 8.10 (4-12.50)6.78 (3-12)Cultipacking 6.55 (3-10) 8.50 (5-15)Broadcast w/ ATV 10.35 (8-12) 7.44 (3-12.50)Conv. grain drill 13 (7.50-20) 11.40 15.89 (13.63-18.15) s13 (8-24) sg14.09 (10-24) gcNo-Till grain drill 15.35 (12-25) 14.60 14.47 (10.80-18.14)14.80 (10-24) s14.25 (5-25) sgAir seeder 16.40Per acre costs of cover crop planting operationsbased on custom rate surveys
  43. 43. University of Illinois Machinery Cost Estimates“Adding 5 to 15 percent toestimated costs is appropriatefor determining custom rates”
  44. 44. IA and IL Aerial Applicator Survey (May-June 2010)Name Location Experience w/CC CostCady Aerial Spray Rock Falls, ILno exp., no customerinterest $8.00/a norm app $8.50/a ccBenoit AerialSpraying Kankakee, IL turnips and rye $8.00/a norm app $10.00/a ccFranks FlyingService Morrison, IL ryegrass and c. rye $8.00/a norm app $10.00/a ccReeds Fly-onFarming Mattoon, ILyes, c. rye, small partof business $8.00/a norm app $12.00/a ccKilliam FlyingService Carlinville, ILrye, wheat on beans,rye on corn$8.00/a norm app $10.00/acor 10/lbCurless FlyingService Astoria, IL ryegrass and turnips $8-15.00/a all app.Klein FlyingServiceSt. Francisville,IL annual rye and turnips~$12.50/a cc, $9.00/a liquidappAgriflite Services Wakarusa, IN rye, wheat, ryegrass ave $15.00/a for cc app.Als AerialSpraying Ovid, MI rye and wheat$10-15.00/a cc $10.00/aliquid
  45. 45. ?Attention to detail is required to achieveuniform aerial application of cover crops
  46. 46. Costs Program 1 Program 2 Program 3 Program 4Seed 11.25 7.50 11.25 9.00Seeding operation 4.15 15.00 10.00 10.00Seed incorporation 6.50Herbicide 2.00 2.00Terminationoperation6.50 6.50Total 30.40 31.00 21.25 19.00Examples of total cover crop management programs ($/ac)Program 1Seed: 90 lbs/ac cereal ryeSeeding operation: spread w/fertilizer buggySeed incorporation: rolling stalk chopperHerbicide: 24 oz. glyphosateTermination operation: 90’ boom spray rigProgram 3Seed: 90 lbs of cereal ryeSeed bed preparation: noneSeeding operation: aerial seedingHerbicide: no added cost, burn-down standardTermination operation: no added cost, burn-down standardProgram 2Seed: 60 lbs/ac cereal ryeSeed bed preparation: noneSeeding operation: no-till drillHerbicide: 24 oz. glyphosateTermination operation: 90’ boom spray rigProgram 4Seed: 3 bushels of bin-run oatsSeed bed preparation: noneSeeding operation: aerial seedingHerbicide: none – winter-killTermination operation: none – winter-kill
  47. 47. Real financial data for thousands offarmers across the MidwestThis is the kind of data we need to really understand CC economics
  48. 48. SOME FARMS CONSISTENTLY HAVE HIGHER PROFITSTHAN OTHER FARMS, #1 REASON IS LOWER COSTS!$148!Similarvariationin costeffectivenessof CC is likely
  49. 49. What are indirect costs?-> costs associated with challengescreated by the addition of covercrops to cropping systems.Examples include cover cropresidues hindering establishment ofsucceeding cash crops due to slowsoil warming or delayed organic Nrelease and cover crops thatbecome weeds.
  50. 50. CoverCropsAdapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004)CCs affect many agronomic factorssimultaneouslyFeedlivestockControlerosion
  51. 51. ? ?IncreasemanagementHostpestsBecome aweedPreventsoil dryingDry out soilexcessivelyInterfere w/equipmentperformanceSuppress cropgrowthTie up NAdd costCoverCropsAdapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004)Not all effects are positiveGood management increasesbenefits and minimizesindirect costs of CC
  52. 52. Soybeans preceded by springplanted radish in 2012
  53. 53. Grazingbrassicas, clovers, small grains, a. ryegrass, sorghum-sudanNutrient scavenging/cyclingbrassicas, small grains, annual ryegrassBio-drillingbrassicas, sugarbeet, sunflower,sorghum-sudan sweet clover, alfalfaN-fixationclovers, vetches, lentil, winter pea, chickling vetch, sun hemp, cowpea, soybeanBio-activation/fumigationbrassicas, sorghum-sudan, sun hemp, sesameWeed suppressionbrassicas, sorghum-sudan, cereal rye, buckwheatGRAZING = #1 way to make cover crops pay!Good CC management starts withmatching objectives with species
  54. 54. Do you think that these cows arehappy to have more than corn stalksfor lunch today?
  55. 55. -> income foregone when lessprofitable crops are included incrop rotations (e.g., small grains)or cover crops are grown at timeswhen cash crops could be in thefield (e.g., cover crops followingwheat vs. soybean double crop)What are opportunity costs?
  56. 56. Internal costs vs. External costsOn-site costs vs. Off-site costsakaOn-site benefits vs. Off-site benefitsWho should pay for the costsof using cover crops?aka
  57. 57. Erosion and sedimentation in agriculture has traditionally beenthought to result in substantial costs to the producer implyingthat voluntary measures at soil conservation would be in theindividuals and societys interest.The research reported here indicates that off-site sedimentdamages are far greater than the on-site productivity effects oferosion and that there is considerable justification for strongerpublic policies in this area.The development of the efficient production frontier reveals thatconventional production techniques are quite inefficientcompared to procedures that could be adopted.The economics of off-site erosionKarl L. Guntermann, Ming T. Lee and Earl R. Swanson - 1976
  58. 58. Silver buckshot is a concept promoted bya collaboration of agencies and orgs calledGREEN LANDS BLUE WATERSThere are no silver bullet solutions thatsustainably balance environmental quality withproductivity and profitability in agriculture!A betterstrategy is . . .silverbuckshot!
  59. 59. Perennial-basedcrop rotationsPerennial bio-energy cropsPermanent pasture systemsWinter cover crops
  60. 60. Impact of the 2008 floods on IA soils20 tons per acre average soil loss across 2,284,000 ac!Conservation structures needing repair12,157 Grassed Waterways8,137 Terraces3,375 Water and Sediment Control Basins800 Grade Stabilization StructuresFields with combinations of two or more conservationpractices (e.g., no-till + cover crops) performed muchbetter than fields with a single practiceReductions in long-term costs!
  61. 61. Which compaction alleviationstrategy is more cost effective?
  62. 62. Moving beyond cover crops as add-onsto new cropping systemsThis is not possible in a corn-soybean system!
  63. 63. Cover crops should not be viewed as the missingpuzzle piece(s) in current cropping systems!
  64. 64. CC should be managed for short termbenefits AND long-term effects onSOIL HEALTH
  65. 65. Fall 2012Spring 2012Some thingsare priceless :->WIU Organic Research farmStudent’shome farm

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