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Soil & Yield Changes by Cover Crops

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Soil & Yield Changes by Cover Crops

  1. 1. Soil and Yield Changes by Cover Crops on a Corn-Soy Bean Rotation Clark J. Gantzer, Ranjith P. Udawatta, and Shibu Jose School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri
  2. 2. Cover Crops Close-growing crops that provide soil protection, and soil improvement. They are often used between periods of normal field-crop production.
  3. 3. • Cover crops can improve soil physical, chemical, and biological properties (Doran and Zeiss, 2000) • Soil physical properties of bulk density, aggregation, and soil temperature are modified “improved” when using cover crops (Sainju and Bharat, 1997) • Cover crops can increase soil organic matter (SOM), soil microbial biomass and enzymatic activity thus improve soil quality (Ding et al., 2006, Hoorman, 2009) Cover Crops
  4. 4. •Cover crops can improve nutrient cycling, nutrient storage, and nitrogen fixation •Cash-crop yields can improve when using winter cover crops through improved nitrogen dynamics and soil water •Cover crops can increased water use from increased evapotranspiration, but cover crop may also conserve soil water from improved infiltration, and decreased evaporation Cover Crops
  5. 5. Cover crop use is receiving increased attention for helping solving problems as they may have both environmental and production benefits to farming lands. Recently an increase both in acreage and the percentage of farmers using cover crop in the U.S. This increase is because of their potential benefit for reducing soil erosion and improving soil health and crop productivity. Cover Crops
  6. 6. Adoption of CC is still very low. 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Hectares Year Average increase in acreage of cover crop per respondent (SARE, 2016, n = 1,379) Cover Crops
  7. 7. The lack of reliable information from well- designed scientific studies is identified as a most important factor for lack of adoption among landowners in 48 states (SARE, 2016). Cover Crops
  8. 8. A field study on the economic effects of cover crops on cash-crop production was conducted at the soil health farm in Chariton County, Missouri. The study compared the annual economic profitability of production of corn, wheat, and soybeans with and without a cover crop in the rotation by examining the cost of the cover crop, the costs and revenues generated by the cash crop, and the cash crop yields. Introduction
  9. 9. Materials and Methods • This project was initiated in 2012 at the Chariton County Cover Crop Soil Health Research and Demonstration Farm in north central Missouri (39o30’N, and 92o43’W). Experimental site and management
  10. 10. Plots A and B are managed with cover crops and C and D without cover crops. Plots B and D have Grundy silt loam, and A and C have Armstrong loam. Cover Crop No Cover Crop Chariton County Cover Crop Soil Health Research and Demonstration Farm
  11. 11. Jan 2017 Feb 2017 Apr 2017 May 2017 Jun 2017 Jun 2017 Cover crop development at the Chariton County Cover Crop Soil Health Research and Demonstration Farm in 2017
  12. 12. •Cover crop establishment was initiated in 2012 •The fields are managed under using no-till management corn- soybean or corn-soybean-wheat rotations during summers with cover crop during winter Materials and Methods
  13. 13. Major soils & 1-ft Topo Contour - Armstrong loam (Aquertic Argiudolls), 5-9% slopes – 50001 45% - Grundy silt loam (Aquertic Hapludalfs), 2-5% slopes – 30085, 45% x 788’ Chariton County Cover Crop Soil Health Research and Demonstration Farm
  14. 14. • Mean annual precipitation is 1069 mm • Mean annual temperature is 12.1oC • Average monthly minimum -7.7oC in January • Average monthly maximum of 30.9oC in July • Average annual snowfall is 450 mm (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/land-based-station- data/land-based-datasets/climate-normals/1981-2010-normals- data) Chariton County Cover Crop Soil Health Research and Demonstration Farm
  15. 15. Soil Sampling 2013 and 2017 • CEC • Potassium • Phosphorus • Organic Matter • pH
  16. 16. Organic Matter • Accumulation of Organic Matter • Slower breakdown, long history of deep rooted native perennial plants
  17. 17. Soil Organic Matter (%) 2013 2017 The accumulation from no-till
  18. 18. • Waterscout SM100 (Spectrum Technologies) capacitance soil moisture sensors were installed at, • Six locations per plot, and • Three depths (20, 30 and 40cm) at each location • Three monitoring locations in each plot were at the summit landscape position and three at foot slope position • Volumetric soil water content was estimated at 15 minute intervals throughout the growing year except during harvesting and planting Soil Moisture study, Chariton County Cover Crop Soil Health Research and Demonstration Farm Instrumentation and Data collection for Soil Water
  19. 19. Plots A and B are managed with cover crops and C and D without cover crops. Plots B and D have Grundy silt loam, and A and C have Armstrong loam. Cover Crop No Cover Crop Chariton County Cover Crop Soil Health Research and Demonstration Farm
  20. 20. Average Volumetric soil water content (@10 AM) from May 2016 to April 2017 21 23 25 27 VWC(%) 20 cm depthCover crop No cover crop 26 28 30 32 34 VWC(%) 30 cm depth 26 28 30 32 34 VWC(%) 40 cm depth 16-May 16-Jun 16-Jul 16-Aug 16-Sep 16-Oct 16-Nov 16-Dec 17-Jan 17-Feb 17-Mar 17-Apr Highlighted; Lighter: Cash crop growth period, Darker: Cover crop growth period
  21. 21. Average Volumetric soil water from February to April 2017 (Active cover crop growth period) 21 23 25 27 VWC(%) 20 cm depthCover crop No cover crop 26 28 30 32 34 VWC(%) 30 cm depth 26 28 30 32 34 VWC(%) 40 cm depth February 2017 March 2017 April 2017
  22. 22. •During active Cover Crop growth of a grass Cover Crop mixture, the volumetric soil water tended to be higher with cover crops at the 20cm and 30cm depths. •Whereas, the volumetric soil water with Cover Crops at 40cm depth is not different. Soil Water
  23. 23. Soil Sampling sites for soil enzymes
  24. 24. 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 50 100 150 200 Depth(cm) 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 50 100 150 200 Depth(cm) β-glucosidase (µg p-nitrophenol released /g dry soil /h) β-glucosidase Summit Back slope Foot slope 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 50 100 150 200 Depth(cm) 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 50 100 150 200 Depth(cm) CC – Watershed 01 NCC – Watershed 03 NCC – Watershed 04 CC – Watershed 02 2016 β-glucosidase level: Cellulose degradation (µg p-nitrophenol released g-1 dry soil h-1)
  25. 25. Simulated Benefit-cost ratios under different cover-crop costs and cash-crop revenues for 2013 and 2014 for the Soil Health Farm In 2013, cover-crop BCRs were greater than 1.0. To match the profitability of using no cover crop, 76% of cover-crop cost would have to be shared by the government. However, in 2014, the cover crop, BCR is 1.0 if 55% of cover-crop cost was cost shared to farmers, or the cost of the cover crop needs to be reduced by ~55%.
  26. 26. Simulations results of different sales revenue values suggest that an increase in revenue leads to an increase in the BCRs. 2013, revenue from the cover crop field would have to increase 33% to match the profitability of the no cover-crop due to the cost of aerial seeding. However, In 2014, cover crops BCR reaches 1.0 when the cash- crop revenue increases by just 5%. Simulated Benefit-cost ratios under different cover-crop costs and cash-crop revenues for 2013 and 2014 for the Soil Health Farm
  27. 27. Benefit-cost ratios under different cover-crop costs and cash-crop revenues for 2013 and 2014 for the Soil Health Farm These findings suggest that changes may be needed in the designing of future conservation incentive programs. Some current programs use a flat rate to calculate cost-shares for farmers for planting cover crops. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program, for example, provides a flat rate of ~$28.00 per acre per year
  28. 28. Two possible ways of compensating farmers’ short- term economic losses associated with establishing a cover-crop rotation: (1)share 55.0% to 77.5% of the cost of the cover crop; (2)provide a cash incentive based on farmers’ cash-crop revenues. About 5% to 33% of total revenue from sales of the cash crop could be provided to farmers to compensate them for the added cost of the cover crop. Benefit-cost ratios under different cover-crop costs and cash-crop revenues for 2013 and 2014 for the Soil Health Farm
  29. 29. A field study of the economic effects of cover crops on cash-crop production was conducted at the soil health farm in Chariton County, Missouri. The study compared the annual economic profitability of production of corn, wheat, and soybeans with and without a cover crop in the rotation by examining the cost of the cover crop, the costs and revenues generated by the cash crop, and the cash crop yields. Summary
  30. 30. Results showed use of a cover crop increased the yield and revenue of a subsequent cash crop. However, net revenue was reduced in the first two years because of the additional cost associated with the cover crop. In the fourth year, use of cover crops led to an increase in revenue from the cash crop relative to production without the cover crop as the cover crop improves the soil. Conclusions
  31. 31. • Results indicate that including a cover crops in a rotation system produce benefits of improved soil and water quality and enhanced nutrient cycling in as little as two years. • These benefits are likely to have a positive impact on the cash crop yield in the long-term. Conclusions
  32. 32. • During a four-year corn-soybean rotation, use of cover crops was less profitable than a system without the cover crop. • To match the economic return from the no- cover-crop treatment, the cost of the cover crop would have to be reduced by at least 77% to 55% in the two years studied. • If financial assistance were based on revenue from cash crop sales, compensation would have to be increased from 5% to 33% of the revenue. Conclusions
  33. 33. Study results should help policymakers implementing financial assistance programs that provide incentives and compensate for losses associated with establishing cover crops The short-term cover crop costs had a negative economic impact on cash-crop production that may be replaced with a positive impact in subsequent years because of improved yields. Conclusions

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