My wife and I farm 900 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. Additionally we have a small beef herd and are developing a rotational grazing system. Our goals include reducing inputs and pesticide use while improving long term soil productivity. In the past we have used frost seeded clover in our wheat as a fall cover crop spring plow down and minimum tillage.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
1) Acquire a no till cultivator
2) Modify the cultivator to accomplish several tasks
a. Apply 25% N as a side dress application and incorporate it
b. Band herbicides in row while removing weeds between rows during cultivation
c. Side dress legume seed to establish legume interseedings
1) Purchase no till cultivator, N application equipment, herbicide banding equipment and side dress equipment
2) Assemble all attachments and modifications to make cultivator usable
3) Purchase liquid nitrogen, red clover and determine timing of application
4) Evaluate weed control, nitrogen response and success of clover interseedings
Extension Agent: assisted in recommending N rate and appropriate growth stage for N application
The cultivator was very effective in removing weeds in the row. Reduced nitrogen rates (compared with pre-plant broadcast rates) did not visibly reduce plant vigor or yield. Legumes were effectively established but biomass production was not significant.
Discussion: I plan to continue to use and promote this method of nitrogen application and weed control. I would additionally like to use this production method with narrow row soybeans. I question based on first years experience if interseeded legumes will produce a return.
In row cultivation combined with side dressing nitrogen and interseeding definitely has advantages in economic and efficiencies compared with separate operations. This practice reduces herbicide use, nitrogen use, and should increase soil organic matter and improved soil tilth.
The primary means of promotion for this project was through the Innovative Farmers of South Central Michigan. The project was featured in newsletters sent by extension in a 4 county area. The cultivator was featured as a tour stop and displayed at the Innovative Farmers field day. At the tour stop the SARE program was explained as well as features and functions of the cultivator. About 200 farmers attended the tour as well as NRCS, extension, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Environmental Quality representatives. The annual Innovative Farmers report will also feature this project and I will discuss the project at upcoming Innovative Farmer meetings.