A total of 60 farmers in DE, MA, MD, NY, and PA will terminate cereal rye 2-4 weeks later than they usually would (April vs. early March) on 2,400 acres, doubling the average amount of cereal rye biomass produced and preventing the leaching of 45,000 lbs N into local watersheds.
Cover crops convey benefits that are typically maximized by maximizing the amount of time the cover crop is in the field. For example, delaying termination of cereal rye gives the cover crop a chance to potentially produce almost double the amount of biomass and thus scavenging more N that might otherwise be lost to the environment. However, it is speculated that delaying rye termination may require different fertilizer application strategies to account for the effect of large rye biomass on soil N dynamics in a following corn crop. For example, it may be beneficial to apply more fertilizer as a starter and less at corn side-dress. The research approach in this project is to test varying ratios of starter to sidedress N fertilizer in corn to fine-tune the fertilizer strategy following delayed (i.e. late) rye termination. The educational approach in this project features a curriculum involving topics such as a) benefits of cover crop use, b) benefits of maximizing time the cover crop grows in a field, c) cover crop planting and termination methods and timings, and d) corn fertility programs following late-terminated rye. This curriculum will be delivered at workshops and demonstrations.
If split-N applications are used, the amount of starter N applied at corn planting must increase proportionally with increasing cereal rye biomass.
Total N requirement for optimal corn yield is not influenced by the quantity of cover crop biomass at planting.
Greater amount of cereal rye biomass will have a net positive effect on corn yield and reduce N loss.
Varying ratios of starter:side-dress N will be applied to corn following late-terminated cereal rye.
The educational approach used in this project is a curriculum featuring topics such as a) the value of including cereal rye in a corn/soybean rotation, b) rye planting timing and methods, c) rye termination timing and methods, d) value of delayed rye termination in the spring, e) management of late-terminated rye, and f) costs/benefits of altering corn starter/sidedress fertilizer ratios after late-terminated rye. The curriculum will be presented at grower conferences and field demonstration days.
1. We contact 2,000 farmers via e-mail with an invitation to participate in project activities (May 2018).
2. An anticipated 600 farmers sign up to the project listserv to receive updates about research results and educational events in their state (June 2018).
3. Approximately 400 farmers attend workshops held across the collaborating states and increase their knowledge of the benefits of delaying cereal rye termination to increase biomass, the risk of N immobilization that cereal rye poses when grown before corn, and strategies for adjusting N fertilizer applications in corn based on cereal rye quality and quantity at the time of termination (March 2019).
4. Approximately 200 farmers attend a field day at on-farm demonstration sites and increase their knowledge of the benefits of delaying cereal rye termination to increase biomass, the risk of N immobilization that cereal rye poses when grown before corn, and strategies for adjusting N fertilizer applications in corn based on cereal rye quality and quantity at the time of termination (September 2019).
5. Approximately 100 farmers contact project personnel to receive assistance with managing delayed termination of cereal rye cover crops (April 2020).
6. Approximately 60 farmers agree to keep records of field activities and receive personalized assistance from project personnel (via email and phone consultations) to achieve the project performance target (May 2020).