Capturing the full potential of cover crops

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I shared this presentation at the Illinois Specialty Crops and Organic Conference in Springfield IL on 1/13

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Capturing the full potential of cover crops

  1. 1. Capturing the fullpotential of cover crops Dr. Joel Gruver WIU – Agriculture j-gruver@wiu.edu
  2. 2. Haphazardcover cropping
  3. 3. What am Isupposed to do now?
  4. 4. Very common question receivedby CC seed vendors in early fall“What covercrop should I plant ???”
  5. 5. Well… what do you want your covercrops to do for you?
  6. 6. Cover crops are not the missing puzzle piece(s) in your current crop rotation(s)! http://www.ncl.ac.uk/tcoa/files/breakcrops_orgagr.pdf
  7. 7. Overview of book contents • Problems and opportunities for over 500 crop sequences• Characteristics of more than 60 crops and 70 weeds • Crop diseases hosted by over 80 weed species• Modes of transmission for 250 diseases of 24 crops • Thirteen sample four- and five-year vegetable and Rotations grain crop rotations Managing Crop Rotation Chart should evolve with key tasks & steps not revolve •Sample worksheets and calculations• Step-by-step procedure for determining crop rotation plans
  8. 8. Overview of book contents • Problems and opportunities for over 500 crop sequences• Characteristics of more than 60 crops and 70 weeds • Crop diseases hosted by over 80 weed species• Modes of transmission for 250 diseases of 24 crops • Thirteen sample four- and five-year vegetable and grain crop rotations Managing Crop Rotation Chart with key tasks & steps •Sample worksheets and calculations• Step-by-step procedure for determining crop rotation plans
  9. 9. Excellent information on integrating cover crops with agronomic crops http://ohioline.osu.edu/sag-fact/pdf/0009.pdf
  10. 10. Start planning today! • Anticipate planting windows • Match objectives with species • Confirm seed availability• Make sure seeding equipment is ready • Identify realistic termination methods • Allocate labor • Develop contingency plans
  11. 11. Crop planted on May 15and harvested on October 1
  12. 12. Opportunities for planting cover crops • Dormant seeding early or late winter • Frost seeding • In the spring • When planting summer crops • Prevent plant scenarios • At last cultivation • After small grains • After vegetables • After seed corn or silage corn• Aerial or high clearance seeding into standing crops in late summer/early fall • After long season crops
  13. 13. What is this CC? Phacelia
  14. 14. http://calshort-lamp.cit.cornell.edu/bjorkman/covercrops/spring-mustard.php
  15. 15. Klaas and Mary Martens, organic innovators in Central NY State, arereporting excellent results with frost-seeded confectionary mustard ahead of dry beans
  16. 16. Mustard variety trial at the Allison farm in early June 2011 Pacific Gold Ida Gold Slower to mature Faster to mature More biomass Less biomass
  17. 17. Mustards are very responsive to N
  18. 18. Mustards are easy to kill with tillage
  19. 19. Sunflowers planted 7/17 and 7/29 in 2010 and 7/7 in 2011
  20. 20. JD 730 Air-Disk drill on Jack Erisman’s farm in Pana, ILJack uses this rig to drill soybeans on 6" rows (~ 280,000/ac) while also dropping about 2 bushel of rye and some micronutrients
  21. 21. Planted before heavy rain Planted after heavy rain
  22. 22. Small amount of foxtail… almost no broadleaves ~ 20 bushels more yield
  23. 23. Lots of weeds but very fewtowering monsters of maternity :->
  24. 24. Match CC objectives with species Grazing GRAZING = #1 way to make cover crops pay! brassicas, clovers, small grains, a. ryegrass, sorghum-sudan Nutrient scavenging/cycling brassicas, small grains, annual ryegrass Bio-drilling brassicas, sugarbeet, sunflower, sorghum-sudan sweet clover, alfalfa N-fixationclovers, vetches, lentil, winter pea, chickling vetch, sun hemp, cowpea, soybean Bio-activation/fumigation brassicas, sorghum-sudan, sun hemp, sesame Weed suppression brassicas, sorghum-sudan, cereal rye, buckwheat
  25. 25. Forage kale Oats, turnips, annual ryegrass and wheatOats, turnips and cereal rye Mystery brassica
  26. 26. OATS & PEASSpring Planted/Summer grazing
  27. 27. Have you used any forage brassicas as cover crops? Hunter
  28. 28. Franzluebbers AJ and JA Stuedemann. 2008. Soil physical responses to cattle grazing cover crops under conventional and no tillage in the Southern Piedmont USA. Soil and Tillage Research 100, 141-153.• Cover crops (winter or summer) can provide high- quality forage and increase economic return and farm diversity, but some farmers have been reluctant to take this advantage due to perceived “compaction” caused by animal trampling.• Grazing of cover crops can compact soil, but not to the detrimental levels often perceived.
  29. 29. Terminating spring planted oats with a soil finisher ~ 3 weeks before planting corn
  30. 30. Are you equipped to handle a situation like this?
  31. 31. 10’ Howard Rotavator tilling ~ 3” deep with C blades
  32. 32. Complete kill after 1 pass and 2 days of sun
  33. 33. Typical weather in spring 2009-2011 :-<
  34. 34. Moldboard plowing can be the best option
  35. 35. Are you familiar with the fence post principle? Zone of maximum biological activity and rapid residue decay Deeper burial does not optimize decay but sends weed seeds into deep dormancy and brings deeply dormant weed seeds to the surface where they germinate slowly
  36. 36. Performance over Price• Buy CC seed on value not price Cover crop seed price survey from 2010 ($/lb) Vendor Cereal rye Annual Hairy vetch Medium red ryegrass clover WI 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 1.21 IL4 (0.20) (0.60) (1.80) (1.75) IA (0.195) (0.62) (2.00) 2.00 IN (0.239) (0.75) (2.20)(IL farmer) 0.125 0.48 1.05
  37. 37. The cheapest seed available isfrequently VNS – variety not stated Do you know the difference between “variety name” and “brand name”? How important is uniform seed size and vigor to you?
  38. 38. How much is goodtechnical support worth to you?
  39. 39. Reduce Risk• Enroll in programs that pay you to plant CCs • Use time tested CC methods • Use more than one method of planting CCs • Plant mixtures/cocktails • Grow some crops e.g. small grains, vegetables, corn silage, shorter season hybrids/varieties that are harvested early • Irrigate
  40. 40. Traditional cover cropping in the Midwest The most tried and true cover cropping system in the Midwest region Frost seeded red clover
  41. 41. Drilling CC after small grain harvest
  42. 42. There are many options other than drilling
  43. 43. Annual ryegrass & radishes aerial seeded into soybeans at leaf drop.Aerial seeding is fast and relatively cheap but more sensitive to weather
  44. 44. Effective multi-tasking or cover crop chaos???
  45. 45. Beware of hype!• Cover crops are not a silver bullet solution to any problem
  46. 46. The rock star of covercrops!!!
  47. 47. With lots of space, moisture, fertility and time to grow, individual radishes can get huge! but a good stand of 1” radishes will probably do more for your soil!
  48. 48. control Ohio State UniversityTillageRadish®plots Soil compaction decreased by >40%
  49. 49. Crop root density as affected by previous cover crop Chen and Weil (2006)
  50. 50. Roots at ~ 40” after 45 days
  51. 51. Radishes are not the only good bio-driller!! • much less top growth but deeper roots than cereal rye • much less winter hardy than cereal rye • can be difficult to kill with tillage • can be a serious weed in small grains
  52. 52. Learn from cover crop innovators • Attend field days/host a field day • Attend conferences • Participate in internet forums
  53. 53. Field day at Steve Groff’s farm
  54. 54. Field day at Steve Groff’s farm
  55. 55. ~ 120 profiles including ~ 20 organic farmers since 2008
  56. 56. Read about CCs in on-line forums
  57. 57. Subject Replies Views> 100 threads and > 200,000 views in 2011
  58. 58. Use precision planting
  59. 59. Bio-strip tillSeptember 2008
  60. 60. September 2009 Attempt #2
  61. 61. Tillage radish on 30” rows with oats on 7.5” rows November 2009
  62. 62. Attempt #3Radish planted on 30” rows using milo plates in mid-August 2010
  63. 63. Attempt #4
  64. 64. Cultivatingradishes on 30” rows
  65. 65. Ridges withdead radishes in spring 2011
  66. 66. Planted beautifully but we decidedto replant after amonth of rain :-<
  67. 67. Keep good records – Date of planting – Seeding rates, drill settings… – Take lots of photos!
  68. 68. Optimize fertility • Inoculate legumes • Inoculate non-legumes?• Fertilize cover crops when residual fertility is low
  69. 69. Do all legumes add N to the soil? Soybean seeds often contain >25% more N than was fixed within their nodules
  70. 70. 133 lbs of K/ac 52 lbs of Ca/ac Hairy Vetch 3,260 lbs of DM/ac 141 lbs of N/ac18 lbs of P/ac 18 lbs of Mg/ac
  71. 71. ?
  72. 72. Learn from research On-farm research• Leave check strips - replicate if possible • Work with universities/NRCS Research station trials • Make suggestions • Pay attention to results
  73. 73. Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Crops Project on-farm research questions 1. Can cover crop seed planted using a modified highboy have better establishment then an airplane?2. How can we improve use of spring cover crops? 3. What other species of cover crops work in IA?What are the yields of improved organic and non-GMO corn hybrids? 5. What are the yields and aphid counts of aphid- resistant soybeans?
  74. 74. Cereal rye inter-seeded with soybean for in-row weed control at the Allison Farm No significant differences in yield between 20&40 lbs of rye in row vs. 60 lbs broadcast vs. control (all trt means > 40 bu/a)Cereal rye and several other CC species that require vernalization will be planted over soybeans rows using the insecticide boxes on our planter in 2012
  75. 75. Joe Rothermel’s new rig
  76. 76. Cover crops planted withinsecticide boxes while stripping
  77. 77. Wheat + radish trial at the Allison farm November 2010 3 lb/a = 2 lb/a = 1 lb/a > 0 lb/c ~ 2.5 bu/a yield boost
  78. 78. Annual ryegrass variety trial at the Allison farm November 2010Bruiser, Bounty and KB Royal had the most top growth
  79. 79. > 36”
  80. 80. ARG is tough to kill mechanically
  81. 81. Organic No-till research at the Allison Farm Early July 2009
  82. 82. Early August 2009
  83. 83. Early November 2009Plot yields ranged from 51.6 to 58.6 bu/ac No significant differences between systems
  84. 84. November 2010 Significant foxtail pressure but almost no broadleaf weedsPlot yields ranged from 42-52 bu/ac
  85. 85. August 2011
  86. 86. November 2011
  87. 87. Soybean health experiment – 6 locations across IL November 2010 Mustard Rapeseed incorporated Canola pre-plant Cereal rye Cereal rye no-till Soybeans no-till drilled into cereal rye were the top yielder by ~ 10 bushels
  88. 88. Corn following cover crop experiment in 2011 Relative Cover crop system corn yield Volunteer oats 79% Radishes planted on 30” 99% Radishes drilled on 7.5” 91%
  89. 89. Radishes on 30” rows with volunteer oats in fall 2010
  90. 90. Wow...cover crops are not idiot-proof!Cover crops generally require more managementthan manure or purchased nutrient amendments
  91. 91. Good advice from Steve Groff… TREAT YOUR COVER CROPS LIKE YOUR CASH CROPS!

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