- During the fall of 2012, corn planted after cover crops had a 9.6% increase in yield compared to side-by-side fields with no cover crops. Likewise, soybean yields were improved 11.6% following cover crops.
- In the hardest hit drought areas of the Corn Belt, yield differences were even larger, with an 11.0% yield increase for corn and a 14.3% increase for soybeans.
- Surveyed farmers are rapidly increasing acreage of cover crops used, with an average of 303 acres of cover crops per farm planted in 2012 and farmers intending to plant an average of 421 acres of cover crops in 2013. Total acreage of cover crops among farmers surveyed increased 350% from 2008 to 2012.
- Farmers identified improved soil health as a key overall benefit from cover crops. Reduction in soil compaction, improved nutrient management, and reduced soil erosion were other key benefits cited for cover crops. As one of the surveyed farmers commented, “Cover crops are just part of a systems approach that builds a healthy soil, higher yields, and cleaner water.”
- Farmers are willing to pay an average (median) amount of $25 per acre for cover crop seed and an additional $15 per acre for establishment costs (either for their own cost of planting or to hire a contractor to do the seeding of the cover crop).
I recently saw a newspaper article “Tracking Phosphorous Fresh from the Farm” written by Spencer Hunt (email@example.com) from The Columbus Dispatch Sunday May 26, 2013 9:03 AM and I found it to be a good read. There are great things going on to help farmers do their best to be good stewards of the land and resources.
This excerpt gives the gist of the article:
The study could be key to devising plans to reduce phosphorus runoff from farms. Farm groups, including the Ohio Soybean Council, the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, have matched a $1 million USDA grant to fund the effort.
Congratulations to the great folks in Ohio who are making this happen and thanks to the Columbus Dispatch for reporting on this.
Sometimes apparent myths prove to be true and sometimes they prove to be…myths!
In March 2013 I asked my brother Don Robison from Robison Farms to help me figure out how cover crops might effect soil temperatures. We have looked at data in previous posts trying to answer the question “Do Cover Crops that Survive the Winter Keep the Soil Colder in the Spring than Fall-Tilled Soil?”
Now I have asked Don to chart all of his data that he has taken since late March in fall-tilled soil, no-till soil, no-till soil with cover crop annual ryegrass, and a lawn. Don added a test of taking moisture readings as well because “we know” that no-till soils are “always wetter and colder than fall-tilled soils.” At least that is common “knowledge” from many farmers I talk to from Minnesota to Missouri and points eastward.
Don made some comments that I believe are helpful:
- The soil type in the lawn is Miami silt loam, while the fields are Crosby silt loam.
- The no-till w/o cover crop test had a compaction layer at ~3-9″ deep in this area in our compaction tests we conducted in 2012. Don’s thought is that where he is doing the tests had a compaction layer closer to the 3″ depth (so there is less percolation).
- Don reports “No conclusions yet and maybe there won’t be any, but an interesting trend I’m starting to see is that in this cool wet spring, the conventional tillage does not seem to be living up the reputation of being warmer and easier to till in the spring than no till. That may very well change when the rainfall and temperatures become more like you would expect to see in the planting season.”
Data reveals that cover crops do not appear to be keeping the soil colder.
It appears that our no-till soils with cover crops has consistently been warmer or just as warm as the fall-tilled soils. I am placing the charts below for you to observe the data.
Cover crops are working in Iowa!
While that may not mean much to my eastern corn belt friends it means a lot in Iowa and the upper Midwest.
Working with Sarah Carlson from Practical Farmers of Iowa and Tom Kaspar from ARS at Ames, Iowa, we’ve been attempting to identify what cover crops will be most compatible with common Iowa farming practices – in particular the use of longer season corn hybrids and soybean varieties, as well as an abundance of corn after corn (CAC) management strategies. Establishing cover crops like radishes and annual ryegrass into these situations hasn’t proved to be easy.
Aerial application of cover crops (annual ryegrass, crimson clover, radishes, etc.) into corn in Ohio and Indiana has been very successful. However, in Iowa it has not worked with quite as much success. Cereal rye may actually be the best alternative. While it may seem a bit “simple” to plant mainly cereal rye most years, there are significant benefits to using cover crop rye in a corn after corn scenario, mainly because it has been shown to reduce Goss’s wilt.
Sarah commented that besides using more winterhardy species for greater success, it is also very important to not interseed the cover crops into green corn or green soybeans. She says, “Pushing radishes with aerial seeding into a dense, dark corn or soybean canopy is unsuccessful.”
But if the right cover crop is used in Iowa and managed well then covers work very well! Rod Swoboda from Wallaces Farmer published an article written by Sarah Carlson reflecting work that was overseen in Iowa by PFI.
There are Cover Crop meetings and conferences going on across the country like never before. Here is a list of those I am aware of that are coming up in February and March 2013. Please look below in the comments section for several more meetings.
February 19 Cover Crops: How Your Soils Benefit TH Agri-Chemical, Kimberly, Wisconsin
February 27 Cover Crops: Do They Make Me Money? Newton and Jasper Counties, IN
February 28-March 1 Midwest Cover Crop Council Annual Meeting, London, Ontario, Canada
March 5-6 Conservation Tillage Conference, Ada, Ohio
March 5 and 7 Reabe Spraying Services, Waupun, Wisconsin (Contact Damon Reabe for more information at 920-324-3519)
March 6 Ag-Tech – Stockton, IL 10AM- NOON Contact Shane Johnson at 815-947-3248 for more information
If you know of other cover crop meetings please add them in the comments section so all can see where else there are meetings!
I’m sure you have already seen the Super Bowl commercial from Dodge Ram trucks.
But just in case you haven’t, I have posted the video here for your enjoyment! By the way, it is okay to be PROUD and even tear-up if you want to. I am proud and I did cry a bit too.
The first day of the meeting, titled “Making Sen$e with Cover Crops,” is targeted toward producers interested in learning more about how to successfully incorporate cover crops into their rotation, and features a panel of current cover crop users.
The second day is devoted to state/province reports and strategic planning for the MCCC.
For details and a copy of the brochure visit: http://www.mccc.msu.edu/
Please plan to register by February 22nd.
Below is an exciting announcement from Dr. Eileen Kladivko (Purdue) from the Midwest Cover Crops Council:
Fellow MCCC members,
The National No-Till Conference, held this past week in Indianapolis, awarded the MCCC with the No-Till Innovator Award for the Organization category! Accepting the award on behalf of the MCCC and the Executive Committee, were Dale Mutch and Eileen Kladivko. The beautiful framed print even included the farmer holding a copy of the Cover Crops pocket guide! The print will be displayed somewhere at our MCCC “headquarters” at KBS, where Dale Mutch and colleagues will be able to enjoy it and use it as a focal point for discussions of what MCCC is doing and what we’d like to do in the future.
Thanks to Randall Reeder from Ohio State, for taking this photo and sharing it with us.
Remember, our next annual meeting is coming up soon! Anne Verhallen will be sending details shortly, but the meeting is Thursday-Friday, Feb 28-March 1, in London, Ontario. You’ll want to travel on Wed, for the full day of talks on Thursday, and then state/province reports and some discussions on Friday. We’ll be done by 3pm on Friday March 1.
Eileen J. Kladivko, Professor
Agronomy Dept., Lilly Hall, Purdue University
Congratulations MCCC! This is an honor well deserved!
Here is a survey link for U.S. farmers who have grown cover crops in recent years. This is a survey sponsored by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and being carried out by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC). This survey about cover crops is brief and can be completed online in 5-10 minutes. Farmers who fill out the survey by March 15th will be eligible for a random drawing to receive a $100 cash gift card from CTIC or the SARE cover crops book. The link to the survey is: https://www.surveymonkey.
Listed below are what promise to be outstanding cover crop meetings in January 2013. Please make an effort to attend some of these if you can:
- January 3-4 – Central Ontario Agricultural Conference in Barrie, Ontario. I will be speaking at this meeting on “Using Cover Crops for Feed.”
- January 9-12 – National No-Till Conference in Indianapolis, IN. This is a tremendous meeting each year and cover crops are becoming a greater focus.
- January 10-12 – Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference in Ames, Iowa has a big focus on soil health that includes cover crops.
- January 16 – Michigan Agri Business Association in Lansing, Michigan. The agenda of this event is fabulous. I am speaking on “Managing Crop Nutrients: The Importance of Cover Crops.” Dale Mutch from MSU will be speaking on using cover crops to build soil health.
- January 17 – Gibson County Soil and Water Annual Meeting in Princeton, Indiana.
- January 22 – FHR1 in Stewartville, Minnesota is having a 4 day event (21-24). I am speaking on Tuesday, January 22 about planting cover crops to build soil health and profits.
- January 28-30 – Legacy Seeds will be sponsoring meetings in North Central Wisconsin where I will speak on forages and cover crops.
- January 29-30 – No-Till on the Plains Winter Conference in Salina, Kansas is chock full of outstanding speakers including Ray Archuleta, Dave Brandt, and Barry Fisher – among many others who are truly experts on cover crops and soil health.
- January 29-30 – Illinois Cover Crops: Practical Strategies for Your Farm in Decatur, IL put on by the Soil and Water Conservation Society.
I am sure there are more than I have listed here. If you have meetings that you would like to spread the word about, please add then to the “Leave a Reply” area below.