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Precision Cover Cropping for Organic Farms

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I shared this presentation at the 2014 Organic Conference in La Crosse, WI

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Precision Cover Cropping for Organic Farms

  1. 1. Precision Cover Cropping for organic farms Joel Gruver WIU- Agriculture (309) 298 1215
  2. 2. Are you using precision ag technologies?
  3. 3. Attention to detail is key to success in all types of farming
  4. 4. Have you ever had a bird’s eye view of your farm?
  5. 5. Whatever skill level you bring to the table can be augmented by GPS guidance technology
  6. 6. No-tilling soybeans into 5-6’ tall cereal rye
  7. 7. Undercutting small grain stubble prior to planting summer CCs (2 passes w/ 15” offset)
  8. 8. Fallow strip Cover crop cocktail no-till drilled after undercutting
  9. 9. Triple S mix Sunflowers, Soybeans & Sunnhemp
  10. 10. Dad… just think what we can do with RTK guidance on this farm!
  11. 11. Are you familiar with the term Precision Conservation? organic farming cover cropping
  12. 12. What is PRECISION COVER CROPPING??? 1) Selection and management of cover crops to achieve specific objectives 2) Strategic placement of cover crops in specific fields or parts of fields 3) Planting of cover crops with a precision planter 4) strategic placement of cover crop rows in relation to other cover cover rows and/or the following cash crop rows (often using GPS guidance)
  13. 13. Compaction alleviation Erosion reduction Weed control Increased yields Nitrogen source Higher priorities for organic farmers? 2012 – SARE Survey Results
  14. 14.
  15. 15. Termination??? Establishment Time/labor requirements Species selection 2012 – SARE Survey Results
  16. 16. The information is based on the best judgment of the farmer/industry/agency/academic experts from around the state who participated in customizing the tool.
  17. 17. cash crop season
  18. 18. Other attributes
  19. 19. #1 way to make cover crops pay
  20. 20. 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 highquality forage and increase economic return and farm diversity, but some farmers have been reluctant to take this advantage due to perceived “compaction” caused by animal trampling. • Grazing of cover crops can compact soil, but not to the detrimental levels often perceived.
  21. 21.
  22. 22. Growing Degree Days - Aledo, IL ( date -> 12/31, base 40) Relative GDD LT Average 2011 2012 Aug 1 100% 2107 2209 2317 Aug 15 78% 1653 1739 1813 Sept 1 53% 1125 1180 1253 Sept 15 35% 745 766 865 Oct 1 19% 409 490 600 Oct 15 10% 202 338 307 Nov 1 2% 43 150 166 There is substantial variation between years. **If fall growth is key, plant before 9/1**
  23. 23. The new version of Green Cover Seed’s Smart Mix Calculator will include a GDD calculator
  24. 24. More farmer friendly technologies are needed
  25. 25. New publication We have made some progress in predicting plant available N
  26. 26. Targeted planting of cover crops may be able to substitute for conservation structures How many of you have grassed waterways (or other conservation structures) on your farm? Targeted planting of cover crops should be able to increase the performance of conservation structures
  27. 27. Cover crops can provide beneficial insect habitat along field borders
  28. 28. 3 way mixtures along a field border
  29. 29. Cover crop cocktail containing rapeseed, radish, sunflower, buckwheat, corn and soybeans drilled into a drown-out area
  30. 30. Aerial application can target specific parts of fields or adjust the rate of application across fields.
  31. 31. The row-bot can be used to seed cover crops one row at a time. The maximum payload of 400 lbs = cover crop seed for many acres.
  32. 32. This is how I did interseeding with rye and radishes this year. It took about 5 hrs to cover 15 acres of standing 36" corn. Wasn't able to get a plane so this is what I came up with. It worked really well surprisingly. I will be buying a high boy to convert next year to do cover crop seeding and spraying with. NRCS dead line is Sept 15 so I had to just get it done this year. Had one close encounter with a coyote but he was moving pretty quick.
  33. 33. “I had a hat, safety glasses, full face shield, gloves, long sleeve shirt with a regular t-shirt over it, jeans and boots. Only skin showing was on the back of my neck. This is a buyers seeder had a flow control valve on the bottom and I could turn the spinner on and off on the bike. I pretty well kept moving and would stop very few rows to fill. Had my dad running around on the ranger with seed, water, rags and gas. We pre-measured an acre at a time he had it ready when I would get to the end row. I could spread 7 but I overlapped one on each side my goal was 35lbs an acre rye and 2lbs an acre radishes. So I went about every 5-6 rows. Speed wasn't a problem since I stayed in 1st gear and pretty consistent. After the first 2 loads we had it pretty dialed in.”
  34. 34. Opportunities for planting cover crops • Dormant seeding early or late winter • Frost seeding • When planting summer crops • Prevent plant scenarios • After weed-free window • 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 early corn/bean grain harvest • After full season corn/bean grain harvest
  35. 35. Clean corn through the rest of the season = missed opportunity
  36. 36. Durivage Farm Ontario, CA
  37. 37. Durivage Farm Ontario, CA
  38. 38. Zumbrun Farm Northern Indiana
  39. 39. “I broadcast 10 lbs/acre of crimson clover at sidedress time (6/6/12). We got essentially no rain from the first week of May until the last week of July. I figured the clover wouldn't grow, but it laid there until we got rain and by harvest we had a nice stand. I'm not sure how this would work in a 'normal' year, but it sure worked good this year. I left some check strips and the clover didn't affect the yield. The seeder was just an old 12V spinner seeder I clamped onto our N toolbar”
  40. 40. I wonder how well this crimson clover over-wintered?
  41. 41. Precision planting
  42. 42.
  43. 43. Attempt #1 September 2008
  44. 44. Attempt #2
  45. 45. Attempt #3 Radish planted on 30” rows using small milo plates in mid-August 2010
  46. 46. Attempt #4 Corn following cover crop experiment (2011) Cover crop system Volunteer oats Radishes planted on 30” Radishes drilled on 7.5” Relative corn yield 79% b 99% a 91% a Corn planted over radish rows w/o GPS guidance
  47. 47. Radishes in fall 2011 Attempt #5
  48. 48. May 2012 +20 bu/a corn in plots w/ fall cultivation of radish vs. no fall cultivation
  49. 49. Radish planted on 30” rows with RTK guidance on August 29th right before Hurricane Isaac rolled in Attempt #6
  50. 50. 4 days later
  51. 51. 10 days after planting
  52. 52. ~ 1 month later
  53. 53. Why are the inter-rows so clean?
  54. 54. We had just cultivated the radishes!
  55. 55. ~ 2 weeks later
  56. 56. December 2012
  57. 57. Precision radishes w/o peas Precision planted radishes w/ peas from 5 ft of row
  58. 58. What is the optimal population for precision planted radishes? The full seeding rate (~ 11 lbs per acre, ~16 seeds per foot) ended up producing the most root and shoot biomass
  59. 59. Planting corn was a real struggle due to the extreme wetness in spring 2013 We seriously considered abandoning our controlled traffic plans but ended up prepping the field for planting with a high residue cultivator. Planting into weedy ridges fully tested our 4 row ridge-till planter but we ended up with 20 – 28K across the field
  60. 60. Yields ranged from ~160 to ~ 190 bu/acre with no significant differences between treatments
  61. 61. We are encouraged to continue with our strategic row placement research
  62. 62. Crimson clover Green lentils Chick peas Fava beans
  63. 63. Sunflower Rapeseed Oats Phacelia
  64. 64. Planted with a drill in late September 2012 Radish Cereal Rye Radish Radish Cereal Rye
  65. 65. Fall 2013 Attempt #7
  66. 66. ? ?
  67. 67. ----- Original Message ----From: "Thomas Björkman" <tnb1@CORNELL.EDU> To: MCCC@LIST.MSU.EDU Sent: Saturday, March 1, 2014 6:58:34 AM Subject: Re: : winter hardiness of winter lentil and common vetch Fast-growing in the fall and winter-hardy may be a difficult combination to obtain. For many fall-established annual and biennial species, it is only the seedling that will harden off well. Once the plant begins to grow, the ability to harden is much reduced. As a rule of thumb, to get maximum hardiness the seedling should be large enough that the root is anchored against frost heaving, but not so big that the stem is growing. A couple of familiar examples; Winter-hardy small grains make more stems in the fall but they do not grow; winter hardy crucifers remain rosettes (no stem enlargement), but make more leaves.
  68. 68. A little extra N can make a big difference +20 lbs N/a
  69. 69. Preceded by spring planted radish :-< Moisture depletion by CCs had a high price in 2012
  70. 70. Why is there rapeseed on the edge of this bean field?
  71. 71. Insecticide boxes can be used for metering small seeds
  72. 72. Joe Rothermel’s new rig
  73. 73. Cover crops planted with insecticide boxes while stripping
  74. 74. April 2012
  75. 75. Soybeans double drilled with 4” offset
  76. 76. Over a month with almost no growth
  77. 77. NT bean yields ranged from ~ 30 to ~ 60 bu/a
  78. 78. Greater precision in your cover cropping practices should increase the likelihood of intended outcomes More positive and fewer negative effects
  79. 79. This is what we were hoping for!
  80. 80. This is what we ended up with :-<
  81. 81. I wish you all success in 2014!