Cover crop innovation

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This is a slightly modified version of a presentation that I shared at The Organic Conference in La Crosse, WI

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Cover crop innovation

  1. 1. Cover Crop Innovation on Organic Farms 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 can do many things! Cover Crops Adapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004)
  7. 7. Good planning increases the likelihood of positive effects and reduces the likelihood of negative effects. Host pests Tie up N ? ? Become a weed Interfere w/ equipment performance Suppress crop growth Cover Crops Dry out soil Prevent excessively soil Add cost drying Increase management Adapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004)
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. Forage kale Oats, turnips, annual ryegrass and wheatOats, turnips and cereal rye Mystery brassica
  10. 10. Have you used any forage brassicas as cover crops? Hunter
  11. 11. 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 beenreluctant to take this advantage due to perceived “compaction” caused by animal trampling.Grazing of cover crops can compact soil, butnot to the detrimental levels often perceived.
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. 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
  14. 14. Crop rotationsshould evolve not revolve
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. Crop planted on 5/15 andharvested on 9/1
  17. 17. When can you plant CCs? • 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
  18. 18. What is this CC? Phacelia
  19. 19. Phacelia & RadishPlanted first week of September
  20. 20. Phacelia overseeded into standing soybeans in early September Phacelia does not like shade
  21. 21. Dormant seeding demo plot
  22. 22. http://calshort-lamp.cit.cornell.edu/bjorkman/covercrops/spring-mustard.php
  23. 23. Klaas and Mary Martens, organic innovators in Central NY State, arereporting excellent results with frost-seeded confectionary mustard ahead of dry beans
  24. 24. 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
  25. 25. Mustards are very responsive to N
  26. 26. Mustards are easy to kill with tillage
  27. 27. Maceration is key for bio-fumigation effects
  28. 28. 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
  29. 29. Planted before heavy rain Planted after heavy rain
  30. 30. Small amount of foxtail… almost no broadleaves ~ 20 bushels more yield
  31. 31. Lots of weeds but very fewtowering monsters of maternity :->
  32. 32. Terminating spring planted oats with a soil finisher ~ 3 weeks before planting corn
  33. 33. Are you equipped to handle a situation like this?
  34. 34. 10’ Howard Rotavator tilling ~ 3” deep with C blades
  35. 35. Complete kill after 1 pass and 2 days of sun
  36. 36. Typical weather in spring 2009-2011 :-<
  37. 37. How would you prepare this field for planting corn? Red Clover/Alfalfa/Orchardgrass
  38. 38. Mowing and allowing a half day of drying made a large difference in the power required to incorporate with a rotavator
  39. 39. Moldboard plowing can be the best option
  40. 40. Soybeans no-tilled drilled in a pasture on Jack Erisman’s farm
  41. 41. 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
  42. 42. Cheapest CC seed available isnormally 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?
  43. 43. 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
  44. 44. Traditional cover cropping in the Midwest The most tried and true cover cropping system in the Midwest region Frost seeded red clover
  45. 45. Drilling CC after small grain harvest
  46. 46. There are many options other than drilling
  47. 47. Magness Farm in Maryland
  48. 48. Annual ryegrass & radishes aerial seeded into soybeans at leaf drop.Aerial seeding is fast and relatively cheap but more sensitive to weather
  49. 49. Effective multi-tasking or cover crop chaos???
  50. 50. http://greencoverseed.com/
  51. 51. cereal ryecrimson clover hairy vetch
  52. 52. crimson cloverannual ryegrass
  53. 53. Aerial seededannual ryegrass turnips
  54. 54. Beware of CC hype!• Cover crops are not a silver bullet solution to any problem
  55. 55. The rock star of covercrops!!!
  56. 56. 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!
  57. 57. This is plenty big!!
  58. 58. #1 attribute maybe that they grow very rapidly inthe fall and then winterkill
  59. 59. Crop root density as affected by previous cover crop Chen and Weil (2006)
  60. 60. Roots at ~ 40” after 45 days
  61. 61. Soon to be released !
  62. 62. 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
  63. 63. Learn from cover crop innovators • Attend field days/host a field day • Attend conferences • Participate in internet forums
  64. 64. Field day at Steve Groff’s farm
  65. 65. Field day at Steve Groff’s farm
  66. 66. ~ 120 profiles including ~ 20 organic farmers since 2008
  67. 67. Read about CCs in on-line forums
  68. 68. Subject Replies Views> 50 threads and > 200,000 views in 2 months
  69. 69. Use precision planting
  70. 70. Planter Plate White 60-cell sugar beet Deere small sugar beet 4/64” Case-IH sugar beetKinze 2000 and 3000 series small 60-cell milo Kinze Edge Vac w/ e-sets 60-cell small sugar beet 1/16” Monosem 6020 plate; vacuum set to 15
  71. 71. Our first attempt atbio-strip tillSeptember 2008
  72. 72. September 2009 Attempt #2
  73. 73. Tillage radish on 30” rows with oats on 7.5” rows November 2009
  74. 74. Attempt #3 Planting on 30” rows using milo plates inmid-August 2010
  75. 75. Cultivating/ridging radishes in October 2010
  76. 76. Ridges withdead radishes in spring 2011
  77. 77. Planting popcorn on ridges in May 2011
  78. 78. Planted beautifullybut we decided to replant after a month ofrelentless rain :-<
  79. 79. Radishes on 30” rows with volunteer oats in fall 2010
  80. 80. Radishes on 30” rows with volunteer oats in fall 2010 Spring 2011
  81. 81. Corn following cover crop experiment Relative Cover crop system corn yield Volunteer oats 79%Radishes planted on 30” 99%Radishes drilled on 7.5” 91%
  82. 82. Attempt #4October 2011
  83. 83. December 2011
  84. 84. Keep good records – Date of planting – Seeding rates, drill settings… – Take lots of photos!
  85. 85. My computer is aboutto explode from cover crop overload :->
  86. 86. Optimize fertility• Always inoculate legumes • Inoculate non-legumes?• Fertilize cover crops when residual fertility is low
  87. 87. 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
  88. 88. Slurry seeding cover crops in Michigan
  89. 89. 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
  90. 90. Cereal rye inter-seeded with soybean for in-row weed control at the Allison Farm No significant differences in yield between 20&40 lbs/a 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
  91. 91. Cover crops planted withinsecticide boxes while stripping
  92. 92. Joe Rothermel’s new rig
  93. 93. 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
  94. 94. Annual ryegrass variety trial at the Allison farm November 2010Bruiser, Bounty and KB Royal had the most top growth
  95. 95. > 36”
  96. 96. ARG is tough to kill mechanically
  97. 97. Organic No-till research at the Allison Farm Early July 2009
  98. 98. Early August 2009
  99. 99. Early November 2009Plot yields ranged from 51.6 to 58.6 bu/ac No significant differences between systems
  100. 100. November 2010 Significant foxtail pressure but almost no broadleaf weedsPlot yields ranged from 42-52 bu/ac
  101. 101. Early June 2011We planted beforerolling in one set of plots
  102. 102. 15’ wide roller built by a local farmer
  103. 103. Mid-June 2011
  104. 104. Early July 2011
  105. 105. Our conventional-till beans are looking good, right?Unfortunately, there were lots of in-row weeds :-<
  106. 106. August 2011
  107. 107. November 2011No-till bean plots averaged 43 bu/a ~ 10 bu/a higher than then next highest treatment in this experiment
  108. 108. Soybean health experiment – 6 locations across IL November 2010 Mustard Rapeseed incorporated Canola pre-plant Cereal rye Cereal rye no-till
  109. 109. Christmas Day 2011 Good stand of Plans for 2012 cereal rye(1.5 bu/a drilled in Compare 1 vs. 2 early October) pass planting, 200K vs. 300K, all no-till
  110. 110. Wow...cover crops are not idiot-proof!Cover crops generally require more managementthan manure or purchased nutrient amendments
  111. 111. Good advice from Steve Groff… TREAT YOUR COVER CROPS LIKE YOUR CASH CROPS!

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