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July 29-1030-Lisa Blazure

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2019 SWCS International Annual Conference
July 28-31, 2019
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Published in: Environment
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July 29-1030-Lisa Blazure

  1. 1. Lisa Blazure Clinton County Conservation District Rising to the Challenge of a Cleaner Chesapeake Bay: How improving soil health is a win-win for the farmers and the environment
  2. 2. Chesapeake Bay Watershed:  64,000 square miles of land  Largest watershed per unit volume of water of any estuary in the world  6 states &Washington DC  17 million people  40,000 miles of PA streams in Bay watershed. Susquehanna River provides 50% of the fresh water  Drains more than 1/2 of the state of PA
  3. 3. Dead zones Large portions of the Bay do not have enough oxygen to adequately sustain life for at least some periods of time each year.
  4. 4. Chesapeake Bay Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) 100,000+ highest on record!
  5. 5. Blue Crab Populations
  6. 6. Nitrogen Loading by Source
  7. 7. Nutrient loss to the environment • Only about half of the nitrogen fertilizer applied is absorbed by the crop • Nitrate nitrogen is subject to leaching and leaving crop fields • Phosphorus is bonded to soil particles and enters waterways via soil erosion • PA Farmers must follow manure management and erosion control plans
  8. 8. Improving soil health is a key management strategy  For every 1% increase in soil organic matter, the soil can hold 17,960 gallons per acre – Christine Jones  Healthy soils have higher organic nitrogen cycling and therefore require fewer fertilizer inputs  Improving soils is a win for agriculture and a win for the the environment
  9. 9. It All Comes Down To Management Decisions Forest SOM = 4.3 % 17 yr- Soybean monoculture SOM = 1.6 % 62.8% loss of SOM after 17 yr intensive tillage SOIL DIRT “Agriculture today is farming a degraded resource and we’ve accepted this as normal” - Gabe Brown, ND Farmer
  10. 10. SoilHealthPrinciples
  11. 11. Tillage Impacts • Soil is vulnerable to erosion • Changes the soil structure • Creates crusting • Changes the soil ecology
  12. 12. No-Till Planting Methods
  13. 13. Cover crops have many benefits • Protect the soil • Feed the soil microbes • Build organic matter • Improve infiltration • Provide habitat for beneficial insects • Cycle nutrients for the next crop • Scavenge nutrients
  14. 14. December in Lancaster County, PA Green is beautiful!
  15. 15. Living roots feed the soil biology ROOTS ARE WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS • Plants produce simple sugars • Increased microbes in the rhizosphere
  16. 16. Soil Aggregates A healthy soil should look like cottage cheese Platey, compacted soil with no structure
  17. 17. Excessive stormwater runoff “We don’t have a runoff problem, we have an infiltration problem” – Ray Archuleta
  18. 18. Schrack Farms Infiltration Rates August 2014 (Buchanan soil) December 2014 Test #1 – 3.5 inches/hr Test #1 – 2.8 inches/hr Test #2 – 4.0 inches Test #2 – 9.6 inches Test #3 – 5.7 inches Test #3 – 4.2 inches Test #4 – 5.7 inches Test #4 – 7.9 inches Average = 4.7 inches Test #5 – 10.1 inches Test #6 – 10.2 inches Test #7 – 13.9 inches Test #8 – 7.5 inches Average = 8.3 inches
  19. 19. Healthy soils require less fertilizer inputs, therefore reduced loading to the Bay PA Farmers are conducting their own research and adjusting fertilizer rates Steve Groff, Lancaster County Jim Harbach, Clinton County
  20. 20. Diverse cover crop mixes are often planted after small grain harvest Why a Diversity Mix? • Legumes fix nitrogen • Provides food and habitat for microbes • Promotes soil structure and builds organic matter • Creates pollinator and beneficial insect habitat Nature is more cooperative than competitive
  21. 21. Steve Groff - Does Diversity Influence Yield? Corn Yields Affected By N Rates
  22. 22. 52 75 117 145 82 132 159 149 0 50 100 150 Grainyield(bu/a) Nitrogen fertilizer rate (lbs N/a) Corn Grain Yield for fields with no cover crops Previous 12 years field was in high tunnel tomatoes No Cover Crop Cover Crop
  23. 23. 190 bu/ac corn grown with no applied N! 15-way Cover Crop Mix
  24. 24. Schrack Dairy Farm Case Study Continuous forage system (corn silage and ryelage) Date Field Operation Rate N2 P K 11/10/16 Fall manure application on 3” cover crop 8000 gal/acre 18 50 146 3/5/17 Spring manure application near green-up 8000 gal/acre 18 50 146 5/11/17 Harvesting wilted triticale/rye mix 3 ton/acre1 -51 -21 -78 5/15/17 Spring manure application after corn planting 8000 gal/acre 18 50 146 5/15/17 Total fertilizer applied (30% UAN on corn planter) 208 lbs/acre 66 0 0 7/1/17 Residual manure history N credit 35 lbs/acre 35 0 0 9/29/17 Corn silage harvest 21.8 tons/acre1 -152 -87 -174 Nutrient balance calculation -48 42 186 1 Based on PSU nitrogen requirement rates and P & K removal rates 2 PSU Nitrogen assumption that only 20% of the manure N is crop available IF THIS FARM FOLLOWED PENN STATE’S RECOMMENDED NITROGEN RATES, IT SHOULD BE APPLYING 48 POUNDS MORE NITROGEN PER ACRE ON 340 ACRES MANAGED FOR THESE CROPS = 16,320 LBS OF EXCESS NITROGEN
  25. 25. ©Kelly O’Neill

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