Winter Triticale and Red Clover Double Cropping Field Trials for a Three-Year Production Cycle

Final report for FNE19-944

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2019: $14,824.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Willard J. Stearns & Sons Inc.
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:
Craig Stearns
Mountain Dairy
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Project Information

Summary:

We sought two answer two questions. They were:

Research Question 1: Does double cropping triticale and red clover lead to Improved soil health when using no-till/cover crop equipment? We will test field trial strips of Triticale and Red Clover in field strips. A second variable of soil type will also be studied. Field trials will be limited to 15 acres of prime and important soils.

Research Question 2: Can a three-year trial of Triticale and Red Clover create a system where yield is equal and consistent each year at harvest?

Unfortunately, our project did not go as we had planned. The Triticale never grew and we were unable to complete our research. We need to make further adjustments with our field selection before reconvening this project.

Project Objectives:

The original objectives were:

The project seeks to determine if a five-year field trial of a three-year double cropping system for Triticale with Red Clover will generate consistent yields year over year. The project also seeks to improve soil health by reducing nutrient leaching using Triticale for forage production. Nutrient leaching was previously identified as a problem in the field strips being used for this trial.

Research Question 1: Does double cropping triticale and red clover lead to Improved soil health when using no-till/cover crop equipment? We will test field trial strips of Triticale and Red Clover in field strips. A second variable of soil type will also be studied. Field trials will be limited to 15 acres of prime and important soils.

Research Question 2: Can a three-year trial of Triticale and Red Clover create a system where yield is equal and consistent each year at harvest?

*****

As seen below, we changed objectives with the same goals to produce consistent and high-quality forage yields, determining which of the following treatment trials works best:

  1. Triticale/corn as a double crop.
  2. Triticale followed by spring-seeded clover
  3. Triticale/clover seeded as a single pass with the no-till seeder
  4. Triticale/alfalfa

The project also seeks to improve soil health by reducing nutrient leaching using Triticale for forage production. Nutrient leaching was previously identified as a problem in the field strips being used for this trial.

Research Question 1: Does double cropping triticale lead to improved soil health? Which treatment, if any, shows the greatest improvement in soil health?

Research Question 2: In a three-year trial of Triticale treatments, which system yields the most total tonnage when yields for each year are averaged? Which treatment has the highest tonnage annually? Does this differ from year to year, and are there variables (weather, etc.) that can explain the variances?

Introduction:

Yield and nutritional value are forage challenges faced by New England dairy farmers. Environmental pressures are also shifting production methods and requiring greater attention to soil health and improvement through production practices. Our project was suggested by Tom Kilcer (2018) of Advanced Ag Systems at a seminar for dairy farmers earlier this year. We will conduct a three-year double cropping field trial of Triticale and Red Clover. The goal is to develop a system where yields are consistent with both cover crops, while also improving soil health.

Our farm is currently an equipment hub for no-till/cover crop equipment in a project from Connecticut Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D), a three-year pilot project supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture NRCS through a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). We will leverage this equipment and outreach network on the double cropping field trial and share the results of the project with other farmers facing the same challenges.

Description of farm operation:

The farm is approximately 1,000 acres. Of that, 488 acres are in active production. The remaining land is in woods, pasture, and farm buildings. While the majority of the land is in Mansfield surrounding the main farm, there is some owned and leased land in Windham.

Mountain Dairy is one of 40 producer-handlers in the country. We milk our 300 Holstein and Jersey cows, bottle their milk in our processing plant, and deliver that milk to our over 125 retail partners.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Richard Meinert - Technical Advisor (Educator)

Research

Materials and methods:

We met with Richard Meinert, our technical advisor, several times over the summer.  We ended up modifying our approach based on recommendations from our technical advisor. Our goal is that the modified methods will provide better results for us and other farmers to use in forage production.

Our original project objective stated that we would complete three year double cropping trial of triticale and red clover; seeking to produce consistent yields and improve soil health. Our new methods are:

  1. Triticale/corn as a double crop
  2. Triticale followed by spring-seeded clover
  3. Triticale/clover seeded as a single pass with the no-till seeder
  4. Triticale/alfalfa

    Accomplished in Fall 2019:

    1. Triticale seed was purchased ($1596.60)
    2. Conducting soil tests. Analysis was received from the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory
    3. Triticale seed was planted on the selected fields

Fields for each treatment were selected based on soil type, matching plants to the soil they will have the best success in. Fields identified for the trials are shown in the map below, with the corresponding table listing acreage and field names.

aerial view of Mountain Dairy fields in Mansfield, CT
Photo: Richard Meinert, UConn Extension

                           Map #   Acres

Spencer              1             8.82

High Lines 1        2             1.52

High Lines 2        3             0.63

High Lines 3        4             3.73 

High Lines 4        5             8.32

Island                    6             8.09

Bottom                 7.1          6.00

Bottom                 7.2          6.07

Research Question 1: Does double cropping triticale lead to improved soil health? Which treatment, if any, shows the greatest improvement in soil health?

Research Question 2: In a three-year trial of Triticale treatments, which system yields the most total tonnage when yields for each year are averaged? Which treatment has the highest tonnage annually? Does this differ from year to year, and are there variables (weather, etc.) that can explain the variances?

We originally planned to purchase AgBags to store the Triticale because the amounts were small, and storage can be tricky for triticale. With our new plan, our technical advisor recommended we use truck scales to measure tonnage, and mix the forage into our bunker silo, layering it in.

Acreage for the field trials will increase to 26.87 acres total, instead of the 15 acres originally planned.

Planned Methods and Measurement

We are measuring the following factors:
    1. Yield of Triticale/Corn
    2. Yield of Triticale followed by spring-seeded clover

  1. Yield of Triticale/clover seeded as a single pass with the no-till seeder
  2. Yield of Triticale/alfalfa
  3. Improvements in soil health on fields in the trial, specifically nitrogen leaching

Nutrient and dry matter analysis will be included in our reports too.

Research results and discussion:

2020 Update

We planted the triticale field trials in the selected fields. Unfortunately, the triticale never grew and after consulting with our crop specialists we sprayed the field off and re-seeded. We determined that additional work is needed in our soil before we can attempt growing triticale and working on the research questions we originally presented.

 

Research conclusions:

We were not able to conduct our research. The fields on our farm were not suitable for growing triticale and the seeds we planted never grew.

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

3 Consultations
2 Tours

Participation Summary:

3 Farmers
3 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities
Education/outreach description:

Our educational outreach to date has been limited due to the failure of our research project. Those we worked with include other farmers that knew about our project and were interested to see the results and our service providers. Due to the lack of results we did not reach out with more formal outreach. 

Learning Outcomes

3 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

We learned that triticale requires more intensive soil preparation and care than the traditional crops we grow. Our soil test results were followed, however we did not have success growing triticale. We know from our research before submitting the grant and with our technical advisors that this can be a challenging crop and it proved to be for us. We are working on improving our fields and may explore this project further in the future.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Unfortunately, this project has not had the desired or intended outcomes. The triticale failed to grow and we are going to focus on improving our soil so that we can potentially explore these research questions in the future.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

We need to study our soil systems further. We conducted soil tests prior to planting and followed the practices recommended but still were not successful growing triticale. We want to explore other ways to improve soil health on our farm. Since we were unable to grow triticale we are reluctant to try it again since it was an investment of money and resources that was unsuccessful. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.