Final Report for ONC15-002

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,345.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Charles Ellis
University of Missouri Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

Recently agriculture has experienced unprecedented demand and high prices for grain crops resulting in record acreage for these crops.  For Missouri this increase in crop acreage has come from erosion prone soils and pastures.  The results of this is: increased soil erosion potential on these marginal soils with a reduction in forage acres at a time when cattle demand is increasing.

Much of this ground is being managed in a no-till system, but is still experiencing 2.5-3 tons per acre per year of soil loss in addition to extensive rill erosion following soybeans in a corn/soybean rotation.  These rills have forced producers to do tillage for field leveling.  Alternatives to this management may be the incorporation of a cover crop into the rotation.

Using the Nutrient Tracking Tool modeling program, the typical upland field in East Central Missouri will experience 2.6 tons of soil loss per year.  By incorporating a cereal rye cover crop between the corn and soybeans erosion is reduced to 1.8 tons per acre and if a cover of cereal rye is incorporated after soybeans erosion is reduced to .8 tons per acre per year.   Cereal rye may provide forage opportunities for cattle reducing pasture/hay needs.

A collaborative effort between regional extension staff and local producers allowed for the establishment of cereal rye plots at sites in Audrain, Lincoln and Franklin counties.  These plots were designed to demonstrate the use of cereal rye in a no-till corn/soybean rotation.  Data collected from these plots included cereal rye growth patterns, cereal rye forage value and dry matter yield in addition to the following cash crop yield.  The growing seasons of 2015 and 2016 while challenging at times provided good years for this data collection. 

Introduction:

Recently agriculture has experienced unprecedented demand and high prices for grain crops resulting in record acreage for these crops.  For Missouri this increase in crop acreage has come from erosion prone soils and pastures.  The results of this is: increased soil erosion potential on these marginal soils with a reduction in forage acres at a time when cattle demand is increasing.

Much of this ground is being managed in a no-till system, but is still experiencing 2.5-3 tons per acre per year of soil loss in addition to extensive rill erosion following soybeans in a corn/soybean rotation.  These rills have forced producers to do tillage for field leveling.  Alternatives to this management may be the incorporation of a cover crop into the rotation.

Using the Nutrient Tracking Tool modeling program, the typical upland field in East Central Missouri will experience 2.6 tons of soil loss per year.  By incorporating a cereal rye cover crop between the corn and soybeans erosion is reduced to 1.8 tons per acre and if a cover of cereal rye is incorporated after soybeans erosion is reduced to .8 tons per acre per year.   Cereal rye may provide forage opportunities for cattle reducing pasture/hay needs.

Project Objectives:

With Missouri’s diverse soils and combination farms of grain and cattle the objectives include:

  • Measure corn and soybean yield response to the incorporation of rye in the no-till rotation.
  • Evaluate cereal rye forage quality and quantity through sampling and use of ultrasonic sensor to measure biomass.
  • Measure for soil health changes at the conclusion of the study.
  • Measure corn’s nitrogen response following cereal rye using sensors such as a Greenseeker unit and/or UAV.
  • Measure economic impacts of incorporating cereal rye in the rotation from a crop yield change and forage value of the cereal rye.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Auburn Farms LLC Auburn Farms LLC
  • Ken Bolte
  • Matt Herring
  • Rich Hoormann
  • Kent Shannon
  • Wayne Shannon
  • Jules Willott

Research

Materials and methods:

The grant conducted replicated strips on producer fields over a three county area (Audrain, Lincoln, Franklin) to incorporate cereal rye into a no-till corn/soybean production system.  Comparisons were made between using cereal rye as a cover crop compared to no cover crop.  The choice of using cereal rye was twofold with it being shown to reduce soil erosion, while possibly providing forage for livestock operations.  Cereal rye is adaptable over the majority of the Corn Belt with an extended planting season in the fall providing a high likely hood of success.   All sites were in a no-till system with the producers using a no-till drill as the method of seeding the cereal rye.  Replicated strips of cover crop and no cover crop were designed to accommodate producer seeding and harvesting equipment with the length and width being large enough for accurate yield data collection with a yield monitor equipped combine.  Treatments were replicated at least three times with a targeted total acreage of each treatment being at least three acres.  Following cereal rye establishment, forage samples were taken during late March early April to measure the forage quality if it was used for grazing.  Dry matter estimates of the cereal rye was also conducted at the time of forage sampling.   Planned producer rotations, fertility management and weed control practices were practiced on all plots.  Data collected from the plots was shared with participating producers and included in curriculum developed for area producers.

Research results and discussion:

cereal rye 1 cereal rye 2 cereal rye 3Yield data was collected in 2015 and 2016 from both corn and soybeans.  During both growing seasons in season stresses occurred with 2015 corn yield suffering at one site due to excessive moisture conditions. Corn grown after cereal rye during 2015 and 2016 seemed to be more susceptible to yield loss than soybeans.

2015 Corn Yield Field 1

Plot #

Rye

No Rye

1

75

100

2

75

121

3

86

130

4

80

116

5

95

100

Average

82

113

2015 Corn Yield Field 2

Plot #

Rye

No Rye

1

163

194

2

179

177

3

182

172

4

178

174

5

195

199

Average

179

183

2016 Corn Yield Lincoln County, 6 Replications, 1 Year

Cereal Rye Ave. Yield

186

   

Control

207

2016 Bean Yield Franklin County 5 Replications, 1 Year

Cereal Rye Ave. Yield

61.8

Control Ave. Yield

61

Audrain County 4 Replications, 1 Year

Cereal Rye Ave.

71.75

Control Ave.

66

Lincoln County 6 Replications, 1 Year

Cereal Rye Ave. Yield

58.75

Control Ave. Yield

62.09

 

During the springs of 2015 and 2016 cereal rye samples were submitted for forage analysis and dry matter yields measured.  Typical measurements showed less than ½ ton of dry matter (8in. height) the end of March when burn down would be typical of the cereal rye prior to corn being planted.  Rapid growth in April would see and increase in dry matter to over 2 tons per acre (16 in. height) by late April when a burn down application may be consider prior to planting soybeans.

Measure corn’s nitrogen response following cereal rye using sensors such as a Greenseeker.  Excessive rainfall during the 2015 growing season left many corn acres in Missouri lacking nitrogen even after what would typically be sufficient applications.  This typically happened on flatter fields such as the Mexico soil type of fields.  Sensor data showed a need of 70-170 lbs. of nitrogen for the corn crop even after a side dress application of UAN. 

Sensor Reading and Nitrogen Recommendations

Plot #

Rye

N Rec.

No Rye

N Rec.

1

.278

182

.212

89

2

.339

268

.243

133

3

.201

73

.173

34

4

.297

209

.182

46

5

.242

131

.187

54

Average

 

172

 

71

Formula: (240X(Reading/.17))-210  June 29, 2015

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Educational and outreach activities reached over 600 people during the grant period.  Activities included:

  • Producer meetings in east central and southeast Missouri reached over 350 producers on how to incorporate cover crops in a corn/soybean rotation as a management tool for cropping sensitive areas to reduce soil erosion and help mitigate climate extremes.
  • Participated in MFA agronomist and producer meetings reaching over 300 MFA employees and producers.
  • Provide educational information to over 60 members of the hypoxia zone task force. Experiences shared with agency personnel about voluntary efforts by Midwestern crop producers to reduce environmental impacts such as the hypoxia zone in the gulf.  Some of the management changes include adoption of no-till, extended rotations and incorporating cover crops.
  • Provide technical training to extension and agency personnel. Over 90 personnel attended trainings on proper cover crop management and potential benefits.  This included how to manage in a corn/soybean rotation make use of for grazing and how they can be used to help mitigate climate extremes.
  • Results of SARE programing shared with personnel, university colleagues and crop producers from the upper Midwest and southern Canada.
  • Collaborative field days with University of Missouri Extension, the Lincoln County SWCD and Elsberry Plant Materials center resulted in producers from a three state area and multiple counties in Missouri with over 120 attending.
  • A Power Point presentation Cover Crops With Corn and Soybeans has been developed that discusses
    • Seeding methods
    • Management changes/adjustments when using cover crops
    • Termination
    • Yield results observed in Missouri

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Educational and outreach activities reached over 600 people during the grant period.  Activities included:

  • Producer meetings in east central and southeast Missouri reached over 350 producers on how to incorporate cover crops in a corn/soybean rotation as a management tool for cropping sensitive areas to reduce soil erosion and help mitigate climate extremes.
  • Participated in MFA agronomist and producer meetings reaching over 300 MFA employees and producers.
  • Provide educational information to over 60 members of the hypoxia zone task force. Experiences shared with agency personnel about voluntary efforts by Midwestern crop producers to reduce environmental impacts such as the hypoxia zone in the gulf.  Some of the management changes include adoption of no-till, extended rotations and incorporating cover crops.
  • Provide technical training to extension and agency personnel. Over 90 personnel attended trainings on proper cover crop management and potential benefits.  This included how to manage in a corn/soybean rotation make use of for grazing and how they can be used to help mitigate climate extremes.
  • Results of SARE programing shared with personnel, university colleagues and crop producers from the upper Midwest and southern Canada.
  • Collaborative field days with University of Missouri Extension, the Lincoln County SWCD and Elsberry Plant Materials center resulted in producers from a three state area and multiple counties in Missouri with over 120 attending. Evaluations from producers show: 
  • Average farm size being 700 acres.
  • Over 60% of the producers attending the 2016 meeting are presently using cover crops, up significantly from earlier meetings.
  • For producers using cover crops, almost ½ of their acreage has a cover crop indicating they have moved past the small try one field stage.
  • Over 95% of attendees indicate they have some or a lot of knowledge about cover crops, which is higher than previous meetings.
  • 100% of attendees indicated the meeting provided information that they could incorporate into their operations.
  • 40% of producers indicate they will increase cover crop acreage in the next year, with almost 45% indicating they will begin to use some sort of cover crop mix.
  • 16-11-09 PMC CC Survey Results ver 03docx

Economic Analysis

An economic analysis of cereal rye needs to be considered in several pieces.  They would include its value prior to a corn crop or prior to a soybean crop.  In addition, what is the long-term benefits of using cereal rye in a corn/soybean rotation?  These long-term benefits economically and environmentally would include:

  • Soil erosion reduction and value of the soil.
  • Nutrient retention on crop fields and the value of those nutrients.
  • Environmental value of preventing soil erosion and loss of nutrients into rivers and streams.
  • The value of increasing soil organic matter to increase water holding capacity and infiltration rates.

Economic value of cereal rye prior to soybeans would be:

 

Cost of seeding of cereal rye after corn harvest                                                               $25/acre

Value of cereal rye as a forage prior to planting soybeans

Late April cereal rye with a 2 ton/acre dry matter yield at $30/ton                            $60/acre

Net value of the rye in late April prior to soybeans                                                         $35/acre

No significant difference in soybean yield                                                                          $0/acre

Net Increase in value per acre                                                                                               $35/ac

 

Economic value of cereal rye prior to corn would be.

 

Cost of seeding of cereal rye after bean harvest                                                              $25/acre

Value of cereal rye as a forage prior to planting corn

Late March cereal rye with a ½ ton/acre dry matter yield at $30/ton                        $15/acre

Net value of the rye in late March prior to corn                                                               (10/acre)

Average yield loss of corn following cereal rye

19bu./acre @ $3.50/bu.                                                                                                          ($66.50/acre)

Net Increase in value per acre                                                                                               (76.50/acre)

 

Net Increase in value per acre during the two-year rotation                                        (41.50/acre)

Farmer Adoption

Farmer adoption to cover crops from evaluation data includes:

  • Average farm size being 700 acres.
  • Over 60% of the producers attending are presently using cover crops, up significantly from earlier meetings.
  • For producers using cover crops, almost ½ of their acreage has a cover crop indicating they have moved past the small try one field stage.
  • Over 95% of attendees indicate they have some or a lot of knowledge about cover crops, which is higher than previous meetings.
  • 100% of attendees indicated the meeting provided information that they could incorporate into their operations.
  • 40% of producers indicate they will increase cover crop acreage in the next year, with almost 45% indicating they will begin to use some sort of cover crop mix.
  • 16-11-09 PMC CC Survey Results ver 03docx
Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Data collected from the plots and producer meeting evaluations include:

  • The need for development of cold tolerant October seeded cover crops.
  • Development of management techniques to insure full yield of corn following cereal rye.
  • Research on the best cover crop for following soybean prior to corn.
  • Determine what the long term benefits of using cover crops is.
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.