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Cover crops at the cross roads


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I shared this presentation at the IL Regional Tillage Seminar in Milan IL on 1/27/2011.

Some edits have been made for increased clarity without the commentary.

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Cover crops at the cross roads

  1. 1. 2011 IL Regional Tillage SeminarCover crops : At the Crossroads Dr. Joel Gruver WIU – Agriculture
  2. 2. This is an impressive accomplishment!
  3. 3. Yield per unit of N has increased over the last 30 years ? lbs of grain per lb of N Some IL farmers consistently harvest more than 75 lbs of grain (1.3 bu) for each lb of N applied
  4. 4. So why does nutrientpollution from agriculturecontinue to besuch a serious problem in IL?
  5. 5. Did your farm ever look like this in 2010? Dissipate large amounts of ag chemicals into the environment… sometimes the consequences are severe !
  6. 6. Could this story be about your farm? Increasing yield by installing drainage By Mindy Ward, Missouri Farmer Today BOONVILLE --- For more than 100 years, the Hoff family has fought to farm wet areas of their fields. For Eddie Hoff, the fourth generation to farm the creek bottom ground in Cooper County, the loss of yield and added expense of working the ground was ultimately affecting his bottom line. “We were losing 60 to 70 bushels per acre in some spots,” he says. We were working the ground over and over. I just wanted to no-till and save some cost.” So, he decided to drain the soils with pattern tile.
  7. 7. Yield mapshave made drainage problems more obvious
  8. 8. Soil participates in the hydrologic cycle SPRING Tile lines short-circuit the soil Reduced Runoff + Erosion IncreasedTile drain water Leaching of Ag Chemicals water Gulf of Mexico
  9. 9. Artificial drainage in the United States % of land drained ~ 40% of ILcropland is tiled
  10. 10. We have a serious challenge!Nitrogen uptake by corn 220 lbs of N / 4 million lbs of water = 0.000055 55 ppmThe EPA drinking water standard is 10 ppm NO3-N
  11. 11. Peak uptake > 10 lbs ofN/ac/day for high yield corn
  12. 12. Western ILcontains alot of soils that are prone to nitrate leaching
  13. 13. Drainage practices should be combined with practices that reduce leaching REDUCTION POTENTIAL combine summer annuals with winter annuals
  14. 14. Cover crops Less loss Less loss
  15. 15. The science is clear - cover crops can reduce nitrate leaching at lower cost than most other practices! Bare fallow Kaspar et al. J. Environ. Qual. 36:1503-1511
  16. 16. What is innovation?? $ VS This type of innovation must be Home grown innovation used on millions of that fits your acresacres to pay for R&D
  17. 17. Are you an early adopter? adopt ≠ adapt Are you a master adapter?Farmers that make cover crops work tend to be master adapters!
  18. 18. Have you attended a cover crop field day?If not, make plans to attend one in 2011
  19. 19. If you can’t make it to a field day, learn about cover crop innovation through participating in on-line discussionsHow many of you are “Ag Talkers”?
  20. 20. What to Look For in A Cover Crop • Fast germination and emergence • Competitiveness with weeds• Tolerance to adverse climatic & soil conditions • Ease of suppression/residue management • Fertility/soil quality benefits • Low-cost Acceptable cost
  21. 21. Matching specific objectives with species Grazing 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
  22. 22. Cover crops are multi-functional! Feedlivestock Cover Crops Adapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004)
  23. 23. Soybean health experiment – 6 locations across IL November 2010 Mustard Rapeseed Canola Cereal rye
  24. 24. Key considerations How will I seed the cover crop?What will soil temperature and moisture conditions be like? What weather extremes and field traffic must it tolerate? Will it winterkill in my area? Should it winterkill, to meet my goals? What kind of regrowth can I expect? How will I kill it and plant into it? Will I have the time to make this work? What’s my contingency plan—and risks—if the cover crop doesn’t establish or doesn’t die on schedule? Do I have the needed equipment and labor?
  25. 25. Key considerations How will I seed the cover crop?What will soil temperature and moisture conditions be like? What weather extremes and field traffic must it tolerate? Will it winterkill in my area? Be realistic about Should it winterkill, to meet my goals? What kind of regrowth can I expect? potential cover crop How will I kill it and plant into it? Will I have the time to make this work? What’s my contingency plan—and risks—if the challenges cover crop doesn’t establish or doesn’t die on schedule? Do I have the needed equipment and labor? Start planning today for next fall!
  26. 26. Cover crops are not idiot-proof! Using cover crops to capture multiple benefits requires more managementThere are few profits in idiot-proof systems
  27. 27. Managing cover crops profitably, 3rd edition
  28. 28. A lot more cover crops would get planted if we all had a several month window of opportunity (following small grain harvest), a good NT drill and an assistant
  29. 29. Planters can do an even better job than a drill
  30. 30. “I made two passes in oppositedirections with a JD 1700MaxEmerge 38 in row planterwith the hitch offset 4 in to oneside. I also moved the drivegauge wheels on the planterover 4 in so that they would runin the row middles to help holdthe planter straight.” John Hall - Arkansas
  31. 31. Continuous NT corn w/ hairy vetchGeff, IL - Terry Taylor We plant a corn that is in the early part of the normal maturity range for the area. The planting date varies, but is usually first week of May. If this happens, we can expect harvest at 25% by 9/15. 15. We then immediately drill the vetch at 20#/ acre with a JD 1560 drill. Last year, we planted the corn in June and flew the vetch on in late Sept. Harvest was late Oct. We got lucky with all the rain and got a good stand. I do not anticipate that field looking like the pix by May 1 this year.
  32. 32. Spreading cover crop seed with fertilizer
  33. 33. Dan DeSutter in IN plants most of his cover cropswith a Salford tool equipped with a Valmar air-seeder. He also uses a drill when possible.
  34. 34. The CC planting methods shown on the previous slides work well but can only cover alimited # of acres after harvest in the Corn Belt Other options are clearly needed! Student: Which cover crops have you tried? how many acres? following/preceding which crops? Joe Nester replied: We just inter-seeded 14,000 acres of corn and soybeans with annual ryegrass. We used a helicopter service out of Minnesota to seed it. We used annual ryegrass a year ago, seeding with drills after wheat and soybeans, but the planting date was too late to wait after beans. Excellent where seeded after wheat about Sept. 1. Our experience is limited, but the idea is really taking off, to hold the soil in place over the winter, keep nutrients within the field, and help with timely no-till planting in the spring.
  35. 35. Photo from Joe Nester
  36. 36. Farmers have been using aerial seeding to improve post-harvest grazing for a long time
  37. 37. Cliff Schuette’s farm in S IL Barkant Turnips-3 lbs Rye 2 Bu Airplane $8/Acre Corn 183 Bu/acre Atrazine 1 lb Partner April 28
  38. 38. Forage brassicas have good cover crop potential ssicas.html Hunter
  39. 39. John Hebert inspecting ryegrassno-till drilled into corn stubble
  40. 40. Set-up for efficient aerial seeding in SE IASteve Nebel
  41. 41. SteveNebel
  42. 42. Steve Nebel
  43. 43. Don Birky’s seeder in Central IL
  44. 44. Don and Matt Birky’s uniquehighboy with 10 feet and sixinches of clearance could attracta crowd for its high-risingmaneuvers, but the father-sonteam created the specialequipment for a tough job.The highboy, dubbed High Roller,was developed to air seedlegumes and other cover cropsinto standing corn in August. TheBirkys, who operate On TrackFarming Inc. in rural Gibson City,put the highboy through its paceslast week.
  45. 45. Planting while harvesting
  46. 46. Dwayne Beck’s set-upfor planting whileharvesting
  47. 47. Combining striptill with cover crops on Ron Neumiller’s farm
  48. 48. Terry Taylor’s new bio-strip-till rig
  49. 49. Terry Taylor planted radishes w/ hairy vetch,crimson clover and Austrian winter peas in fall 2010
  50. 50. “I planted the radish with the front units and the rye with the back units on a 3500 Kinze. I had to cobble together a second transmission for the front units so I could set the front and rear units separately. I cant recall specifics right now of what sprockets I used” Harnish farmLancaster County, PA
  51. 51. November 2010Radishes planted on the WIU/AllisonOrganic Research farm on 30” rowsusing milo plates in our corn planter
  52. 52. Radish planted involunteer cereal rye
  53. 53. Visual evidence of biodrillingCanola rootRapeseed root
  54. 54. Small-seeded legumes and grasses can beplanted using the insecticide boxes of most corn/soybean planters. Just like granular insecticides, many of the small-seeded forages can be accurately metered directly in-furrow or banded just infront of the press wheel. Setting the double disk openers about 1/2” to 3/4” deep and runningthe seed in-furrow will give the best seed-to-soil contact and probably the best chance of success.
  55. 55. New bulletin from Penn State Red clover can be frost seeded into smallgrains in early spring, over seeded into corn in early-summer and over seeded into soybeans just before leaf drop.
  56. 56. Rig for mid-summer over-seeding into corn in Ontario
  57. 57. DB150-200 bu cornwith 0-20 lbs of N/acKura clover in WI
  58. 58. Competition from kura clover has been successfully managed with herbicides but strip- till may be the future of this systemOn-farm innovation is needed!