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2011 IL Regional Tillage Seminar

Cover crops : At the Crossroads


          Dr. Joel Gruver
        WIU – Agriculture
        j-gruver@wiu.edu
This is an impressive accomplishment!
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
So why does
   nutrient
pollution from
  agriculture
continue to be
such a serious
   problem
    in IL?
Did your farm ever look
   like this in 2010?
      Dissipate large amounts of ag
    chemicals into the environment…
    sometimes the consequences are
                 severe !




http://mckusicklake.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/2007_0327image0001.JPG
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.
Yield maps
have made
 drainage
 problems
   more
  obvious
Soil participates in the hydrologic cycle
                                      SPRING



                                                     Tile lines
                                               short-circuit the soil

                                                Reduced Runoff + Erosion


                                             Increased
Tile drain
                                  water




                                             Leaching of
                                             Ag Chemicals
                                                       water



http://www.greenlandsbluewaters.org/04_Glover.ppt
                                                                           Gulf of Mexico
Artificial drainage in the United States




                                                                                         % of land drained




  ~ 40% of IL
cropland is tiled
http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/36251500/TheExtentofFarmDrainageintheUnitedStates.pdf
We have a serious challenge!
Nitrogen uptake by corn




   220 lbs of N / 4 million lbs of water = 0.000055
                     55 ppm
The EPA drinking water standard is 10 ppm NO3-N
Peak uptake > 10 lbs of
N/ac/day for high yield corn
Western IL
contains a
lot of soils
  that are
 prone to
   nitrate
 leaching
Drainage practices should be combined
  with practices that reduce leaching



                                REDUCTION POTENTIAL




      combine summer annuals with winter annuals
Cover crops at the cross roads
Cover crops




              Less loss
 Less loss
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
What is innovation??

     $                 VS


    This type of
 innovation must be     Home grown innovation
 used on millions of      that fits your acres
acres to pay for R&D
Are you an early adopter?

 adopt ≠ adapt
  Are you a master adapter?
Farmers that make cover crops work
    tend to be master adapters!
Have you
               attended a
               cover crop
               field day?




If not, make
   plans to
 attend one
   in 2011
If you can’t make it to a field day,
   learn about cover crop innovation
      through participating in on-line
               discussions

How many of you are “Ag Talkers”?
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
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-fixation
clovers, 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
Cover crops are multi-functional!




   Feed
livestock
            Cover
            Crops




                    Adapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004)
Soybean health experiment – 6 locations across IL
                    November 2010




                   Mustard
                  Rapeseed
                   Canola
                  Cereal rye
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?
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!
Cover crops are
       not idiot-proof!




 Using cover crops to capture multiple benefits
          requires more management

There are few profits in idiot-proof systems
Managing cover crops profitably, 3rd edition
Cover crops at the cross roads
Cover crops at the cross roads
Cover crops at the cross roads
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
Planters can do an even
 better job than a drill
“I made two passes in opposite
directions with a JD 1700
MaxEmerge 38 in row planter
with the hitch offset 4 in to one
side. I also moved the drive
gauge wheels on the planter
over 4 in so that they would run
in the row middles to help hold
the planter straight.”
      John Hall - Arkansas
Continuous NT corn
   w/ hairy vetch
Geff, 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.
Spreading cover crop seed with fertilizer
Dan DeSutter in IN plants most of his cover crops
with a Salford tool equipped with a Valmar air-seeder.
         He also uses a drill when possible.
The CC planting methods shown on the
 previous slides work well but can only cover a
limited # 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.
Photo from Joe Nester
Farmers have been using aerial seeding
 to improve post-harvest grazing for a
              long time
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
Forage brassicas have good cover crop potential




                        http://www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk/2005/12/bra
                        ssicas.html




                  Hunter
John Hebert
   inspecting
    ryegrass
no-till drilled into
  corn stubble
Set-up for efficient aerial seeding in SE IA




Steve Nebel
Steve
Nebel
Steve Nebel
Don Birky’s
 seeder in
 Central IL
Don and Matt Birky’s unique
highboy with 10 feet and six
inches of clearance could attract
a crowd for its high-rising
maneuvers, but the father-son
team created the special
equipment for a tough job.

The highboy, dubbed High Roller,
was developed to air seed
legumes and other cover crops
into standing corn in August. The
Birkys, who operate On Track
Farming Inc. in rural Gibson City,
put the highboy through its paces
last week.
Planting while harvesting
Cover crops at the cross roads
Dwayne Beck’s set-up
for planting while
harvesting
Cover crops at the cross roads
Combining striptill with cover crops
   on Ron Neumiller’s farm
Terry Taylor’s new bio-strip-till rig
Terry Taylor planted radishes w/ hairy vetch,
crimson clover and Austrian winter peas in fall 2010
“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 can't recall
                             specifics right now of what
                                 sprockets I used”




 Harnish farm

Lancaster County, PA
November 2010



Radishes planted on the WIU/Allison
Organic Research farm on 30” rows
using milo plates in our corn planter
Radish planted in
volunteer cereal rye
Cover crops at the cross roads
Cover crops at the cross roads
Visual evidence of biodrilling
Canola root




Rapeseed root
Cover crops at the cross roads
Small-seeded legumes and grasses can be
planted 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 in
front of the press wheel. Setting the double disk
  openers about 1/2” to 3/4” deep and running
the seed in-furrow will give the best seed-to-soil
    contact and probably the best chance of
                     success.
Cover crops at the cross roads
New bulletin from Penn State




 Red clover can be frost seeded into small
grains in early spring, over seeded into corn
   in early-summer and over seeded into
       soybeans just before leaf drop.
Rig for mid-summer over-seeding into corn in Ontario
Cover crops at the cross roads
DB




150-200 bu corn
with 0-20 lbs of
      N/ac

Kura clover in WI
Competition from
     kura clover has been
           successfully
          managed with
     herbicides but strip-
     till may be the future
          of this system
On-farm innovation is needed!

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Cover crops at the cross roads

  • 1. 2011 IL Regional Tillage Seminar Cover crops : At the Crossroads Dr. Joel Gruver WIU – Agriculture j-gruver@wiu.edu
  • 2. This is an impressive accomplishment!
  • 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. So why does nutrient pollution from agriculture continue to be such a serious problem in IL?
  • 5. Did your farm ever look like this in 2010? Dissipate large amounts of ag chemicals into the environment… sometimes the consequences are severe ! http://mckusicklake.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/2007_0327image0001.JPG
  • 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. Yield maps have made drainage problems more obvious
  • 8. Soil participates in the hydrologic cycle SPRING Tile lines short-circuit the soil Reduced Runoff + Erosion Increased Tile drain water Leaching of Ag Chemicals water http://www.greenlandsbluewaters.org/04_Glover.ppt Gulf of Mexico
  • 9. Artificial drainage in the United States % of land drained ~ 40% of IL cropland is tiled http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/36251500/TheExtentofFarmDrainageintheUnitedStates.pdf
  • 10. We have a serious challenge! Nitrogen uptake by corn 220 lbs of N / 4 million lbs of water = 0.000055 55 ppm The EPA drinking water standard is 10 ppm NO3-N
  • 11. Peak uptake > 10 lbs of N/ac/day for high yield corn
  • 12. Western IL contains a lot of soils that are prone to nitrate leaching
  • 13. Drainage practices should be combined with practices that reduce leaching REDUCTION POTENTIAL combine summer annuals with winter annuals
  • 15. Cover crops Less loss Less loss
  • 16. 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
  • 17. What is innovation?? $ VS This type of innovation must be Home grown innovation used on millions of that fits your acres acres to pay for R&D
  • 18. Are you an early adopter? adopt ≠ adapt Are you a master adapter? Farmers that make cover crops work tend to be master adapters!
  • 19. Have you attended a cover crop field day? If not, make plans to attend one in 2011
  • 20. If you can’t make it to a field day, learn about cover crop innovation through participating in on-line discussions How many of you are “Ag Talkers”?
  • 21. 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
  • 22. 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-fixation clovers, 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
  • 23. Cover crops are multi-functional! Feed livestock Cover Crops Adapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004)
  • 24. Soybean health experiment – 6 locations across IL November 2010 Mustard Rapeseed Canola Cereal rye
  • 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? 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?
  • 26. 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!
  • 27. Cover crops are not idiot-proof! Using cover crops to capture multiple benefits requires more management There are few profits in idiot-proof systems
  • 28. Managing cover crops profitably, 3rd edition
  • 32. 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
  • 33. Planters can do an even better job than a drill
  • 34. “I made two passes in opposite directions with a JD 1700 MaxEmerge 38 in row planter with the hitch offset 4 in to one side. I also moved the drive gauge wheels on the planter over 4 in so that they would run in the row middles to help hold the planter straight.” John Hall - Arkansas
  • 35. Continuous NT corn w/ hairy vetch Geff, 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.
  • 36. Spreading cover crop seed with fertilizer
  • 37. Dan DeSutter in IN plants most of his cover crops with a Salford tool equipped with a Valmar air-seeder. He also uses a drill when possible.
  • 38. The CC planting methods shown on the previous slides work well but can only cover a limited # 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.
  • 39. Photo from Joe Nester
  • 40. Farmers have been using aerial seeding to improve post-harvest grazing for a long time
  • 41. 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
  • 42. Forage brassicas have good cover crop potential http://www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk/2005/12/bra ssicas.html Hunter
  • 43. John Hebert inspecting ryegrass no-till drilled into corn stubble
  • 44. Set-up for efficient aerial seeding in SE IA Steve Nebel
  • 47. Don Birky’s seeder in Central IL
  • 48. Don and Matt Birky’s unique highboy with 10 feet and six inches of clearance could attract a crowd for its high-rising maneuvers, but the father-son team created the special equipment for a tough job. The highboy, dubbed High Roller, was developed to air seed legumes and other cover crops into standing corn in August. The Birkys, who operate On Track Farming Inc. in rural Gibson City, put the highboy through its paces last week.
  • 51. Dwayne Beck’s set-up for planting while harvesting
  • 53. Combining striptill with cover crops on Ron Neumiller’s farm
  • 54. Terry Taylor’s new bio-strip-till rig
  • 55. Terry Taylor planted radishes w/ hairy vetch, crimson clover and Austrian winter peas in fall 2010
  • 56. “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 can't recall specifics right now of what sprockets I used” Harnish farm Lancaster County, PA
  • 57. November 2010 Radishes planted on the WIU/Allison Organic Research farm on 30” rows using milo plates in our corn planter
  • 61. Visual evidence of biodrilling Canola root Rapeseed root
  • 63. Small-seeded legumes and grasses can be planted 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 in front of the press wheel. Setting the double disk openers about 1/2” to 3/4” deep and running the seed in-furrow will give the best seed-to-soil contact and probably the best chance of success.
  • 65. New bulletin from Penn State Red clover can be frost seeded into small grains in early spring, over seeded into corn in early-summer and over seeded into soybeans just before leaf drop.
  • 66. Rig for mid-summer over-seeding into corn in Ontario
  • 68. DB 150-200 bu corn with 0-20 lbs of N/ac Kura clover in WI
  • 69. Competition from kura clover has been successfully managed with herbicides but strip- till may be the future of this system On-farm innovation is needed!