cover crops for organic field crops in mn

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Joel Gruver WIU- Agriculture [email protected] (309) 298 1215 Cover crops for organic field cropping systems in MN

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i shared this presentation at the MN Organic Conference on 1/12/2013


  • 1.Cover cropsfor organic field cropping systems in MN Joel GruverWIU- Agriculture [email protected] (309) 298 1215

2. Almost500 miles! Macomb 3. Macomb IL Apr 21 Oct 11 180 4. 15.4% 5. Historically, 10.6% than Saint Cloud29% more GDD @ 40F 6. Very few opportunities for CC before or after corn and soybeans 7. Many more opportunities for CC afterwheat, barley, oats, rye, peas 8. small grains + warm season grasses + a. ryegrass + buckwheat + flax mustard + radish + rapeseed/canola + turnip alfalfa + clovers + vetch + peas + soybeans6 mixtures of c. rye, a. ryegrass, c. clover, oats, radish, peas + vetch 9. Crop planted on 5/15 andharvested on 10/1 10. Crop planted on 4/15 andharvested on 8/15 11. MCCC website also provides links tolots of good extension publications 12. Lots of potential cover crop species are described in this publication 13. Wisconsin data suggest that approximately 70% of whole-plant N will become available in the first yearfollowing clover, most released before corn begins its period of rapid uptake. 14. Usually, the best conditions for frost seeding occur in mid to late March. Low overnight temperatures cause the surface to freezeand crack. Warm daytime temperatures thaw the surface, sealingthe cracks. If daytime thawing occurs, the daily window for seeding lasts only a few hours, beginning at dawn. With subfreezing daytime temperatures, seeding can occur anytimeduring the day. Seed can be broadcast until mid-April if cracks are present and the traditional frost-seeding window is missed. 15. Gary Sommers farm in Clinton, Wisconsin, is just down the road from his boyhoodhome. He grows corn, soybeans, and winter wheat on 1,475 of his 1,500 acres. Theremaining 25 acres are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.Gary mainly uses cover crops on his steeper fields. Usually he sows cover cropsincluding buckwheat, soybeans, oats, and Berseem cloverafter harvesting winterwheat in mid-July. The following spring he plants these fields to corn. Cover cropswhich do not winter-kill are terminated in the fall to prevent corn planting delays. 16. Match CC objectives with species Grazing GRAZING = #1 way to make cover crops pay!brassicas, clovers, alfalfa, small grains, annual ryegrass, sorghum-sudanNutrient scavenging/cycling brassicas, small grains, annual ryegrass Bio-drilling brassicas, annual ryegrass, sugarbeet, sunflower,sorghum-sudan sweet clover, alfalfaN-fixationclovers, vetches, lentil, winter pea, chickling vetch, sun hemp, cowpea, soybean Bio-activation/fumigationbrassicas, sorghum-sudan, sun hemp, sesame Weed suppression brassicas, sorghum-sudan, cereal rye, buckwheat 17. Forage kale Oats, turnips, annual ryegrass and wheatOats, turnips and cereal rye Mystery brassica 18. On farms with livestock, manyfailures can be turned into success! 19. Franzluebbers AJ and JA Stuedemann. 2008.Soil physical responses to cattle grazing covercrops 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 farmdiversity, but some farmers have been reluctant to take this advantage due to perceived compaction causedby animal trampling.Grazing of cover crops can compact soil, but not to the detrimental levels often perceived. 20. Crop Rotation on Organic Farms:A Planning Manual provides anin-depth review of the applicationsof crop rotation-including improving soil quality and health,and managing pests, diseases, and weeds. Consulting with expertorganic farmers, the authors share rotation strategies that can be applied under various field conditions and with a wide range of crops. Crop Rotation on Organic Farms is most applicable to farms in theNortheastern United States andEastern Canada but is worth a look 21. 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 22. When can you plant CCs? Dormant seeding early or late winter Frost seeding In the spring In the spring w/ cash crop Prevent plant scenarios At last cultivation After small grains After vegetables After seed corn or silage corn Aerial or high clearance seeding into standingcrops in late summer/early fall After long season crops 23. What is this CC?Phacelia 24. WIU Organic research farm May 2012 25. Very denserooting at the soil surface 26. Mustard variety trial at the Allison farm in early June 2011Pacific Gold Ida GoldSlower to matureFaster to mature More biomassLess biomass 27. JD 730 Air-Disk drill on Jack Erismans farm in Pana, IL Jack uses this rig to drill soybeans on 6" rows(~ 280,000/ac) while also dropping ~2 bushel of rye and some micronutrients 28. Zumbrun FarmNorthern Indiana 29. Drilling cover crops after small grain harvest 30. There are many options other than drilling 31. Magness Farm in Maryland 32. Slurry seeding 33. What is PRECISION COVER CROPPING?? 1) Planting of cover crops with a precision planter2) strategic placement of cover crop rows in relationto other cover cover rows and/or the following cashcrop rows (often using GPS guidance)3) Strategic placement of cover crops in specificfields or parts of fields4) Selection and management of cover crops to achieve specific objectives 34. Precision planting 35. 36. Insecticide boxes can be used for metering small seeds 37. Joe Rothermels new rig 38. Cover crops planted with insecticide boxes while stripping 39. September 2008 40. Attempt #3 Radish planted on 30 rows usingsmall milo plates in mid-August 2010 41. Corn following cover crop experiment (2011)Relative Cover crop system corn yieldVolunteer oats 79%Radishes planted on 3099%Radishes drilled on 7.5 91%Corn planted directly over radish rows 42. May 2012 43. Radish planted on 30 rows with RTK guidance on August 29th right before Hurricane Isaac rolled in 44. 4 days later 45. 7 days after planting 46. 10 days after planting 47. ~ 1 month later 48. Why are the inter-rows so clean? 49. We had just cultivated the radishes! 50. ~ 2 weeks later 51. December 2012We are planning to freshen the radish rowswith a Yetter strip till bar before planting corn directly over the radish rows 52. Precision radishes w/o peasPrecision planted radishes w/ peas from 5 ft of row 53. What is the optimalseeding rate for precision planted radishes? 4-6 seeds per foot is probably often thebest ROI but ~16 seeds per foot produced the most biomass for us this fallhigher is probably better the later you plant 54. Radishes in fall 2011~ 20 more bushels/a wherewe cultivated in the fall 55. Ridges withdead radish residues in spring 2011 56. Planting popcornon radish ridgesin May 2011 57. Planted beautifullybut we decided toreplant after amonth of relentlessrain :-< 58. Fall 2011 59. Fall 2012 60. CrimsonChick cloverpeasGreenFavalentils beans 61. Sunflower OatsRapeseed Phacelia 62. We are trying to identify the bestcombinations of winter hardy and winter-kill CCs for row andinter-row positions 63. A little extra N can make a big difference +20 lbs N/a Radish biomass = 2X 64. Same planter pass5 buffer rows were not Preceded by spring preceded by a CCplanted radish Most years the extra transpiration would probably have been helpful on this wet farm 65. Last summer, we undercut our small grain stubble using a no-till cultivator and a tractor with RTK guidance 66. Cover crop cocktailFallow strip no-till drilled after undercutting 67. Triple S mixSunflowers, Soybeans & Sunnhemp 68. Effective multi-tasking or cover crop chaos??? 69. 70. Planting into poorly digested red clover residues 25-50% stand loss Near perfect stands in all other cornplots on the farm this past spring 71. Annual ryegrass after chisel plowingChisel plowing made the next pass with a rotavator easier and more effective 72. No-till drilling soybeans into standing ryeEarly June 2011 73. 15 wide roller built by a local farmer 74. Mid-June 2011Rolled after drilling 75. Early July 2011 76. Our conventional-till beans are looking good, right? 77. August 2011 78. November 2011The NT bean plots yielded~10 bu more than the best tillage system plots 79. April 2012In our experience, a strong stand of rye is critical 80. Planting into 5-6 tall rye on May 11 81. Double drilled with 4 offset 82. June 2012 83. All of July :-< 84. Our 2012 NT bean yields ranged from ~ 30 to ~ 60 bu/a Wet hole yieldedvery well Better drained areas of the field yielded poorly 85. CCs affect many agronomic factorssimultaneouslyControlerosion FeedlivestockCoverCropsAdapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004) 86. Not all effects are positive Host pestsTie up N??Become aweed Interfere w/equipment performanceSuppress crop growthCoverCrops Dry out soil Preventexcessivelysoil dryingAdd costIncrease management Adapted from Magdoff and Weil (2004) 87. Greater precision in your covercropping practices will increase the likelihood of intended outcomes More positive and fewer negative effects 88. I wish you all success in 2013!