The Organic No-till Cropping System Farm Evaluation project completed two of the three years planned. This project was to eliminate poultry manure in organic corn production because of high soil phosphorus levels. A system was used in which a hairy vetch cover crop was established to provide the total nitrogen required for corn. The corn was no-till planted into the hairy vetch and then the hairy vetch was roll killed using a Buffalo rolling stalk chopper. Later in the season a Buffalo high residue cultivator would be used to control weeds. Shortly after receiving the grant I left my extension position at Delaware State University and began my current position with USDA ARS in Beltsville, Maryland, but I continued to work with the Danko family.
During the first year of the grant, the hairy vetch covers that were established in the fall of 1997 were poor. A wet fall extended the soybean harvest and the hairy vetch was planted later than normal. The hairy vetch was roll killed, but with a 60 to 70 percent vetch cover the weeds became a problem. The missing vetch mulch allowed for the early germination of many weeds to complete with the corn. By the time the corn was large enough to cultivate the majority of the weeds had become too large to be taken out with the Buffalo high residue cultivator. By late June a drought had set in and the remainder of the summer and fall were very dry. Corn yields were reduced by 50% from the previous year.
1999 the second year of the grant was completed, by a record setting drought left little results. What was learned from this was leaving hairy vetch to grow to late into the spring dramatically reduces available soil moisture for the following corn crop. The cornnever recieved adequate rainfall to our compete the weeds, so the corn was weedier than in past years. This has already been well documented. The rolling of hairy vetch with a Buffalo rolling stalk chopper worked well in killing the hairy vetch with our herbicides.
After five years of certified organic gain production Jon and Linda Danko discontinued organic production and returned to conventional production methods. The project was discontinued. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.