Using Oilseed as Biological Plow to Reduce Soil Compaction and Recycle Nutrients

Project Overview

FNC08-708
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2008: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: barley, canola, millet, oats, rapeseed, rye, soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: radishes (culinary)
  • Animals: bees, bovine, swine

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: catch crops, cover crops, no-till, nutrient cycling, application rate management, conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, farm-to-institution, risk management, value added, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement, soil stabilization, wildlife, carbon sequestration
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, nutrient mineralization, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, organic matter, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, new business opportunities

    Summary:

    I. PROJECT IDENTIFICATION
    Name: DAVID BRANDT
    Address: 6100 Basil Western Road, Carroll, OH 43112
    Phone: 740-756-4436
    Email: BrandtsFarm@yahoo.com
    Project Title: Using Oilseed Radish as Biological Plow to Reduce Soil Compaction and Recycle Nutrients.
    Project Number: FNC08-708
    Project Duration: 1 year

    II. PROJECT BACKGROUND
    Our farm operation consists of 798 acres of land for corn, beans, and wheat, and 10 acres for producing vegetables. Soils in our farm are Carbington – Benington – Alexandra associations, which are deep, rolling, and heavy clayey in texture. The soil pH is ranged 6.4 to 7.3 with an average of 2.5% soil organic matter content.
    Like any other farmers, I was very much interested to follow integrated management systems using cover crops as source of biomass, nutrients, and bio-physical plow on my NT field to break-up compaction and improve soil quality to support the sustainable agriculture in Ohio. Presently, we use continuous no-till with the use of a variety of cover crops.
    Started no-till in 1971, we used some cover crops on small scale since 1978. Our preferred crop rotation is corn-bean-wheat. However, wheat to corn rotation had trouble getting good stands. Onwards from 1978, I have been using sustainable practices with different organic amendments especially cover crops in continuous no-till for growing grain crops to improve my soil health and improve farm profitability. We are using Austrian winter peas, cereal rye, hairy vetch, radish, etc. as cover crops in continuous no-till corn-soybean-wheat rotation with minimum input of nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides.

    III. PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
    I used mixed cover cropping with Austrian winter peas (N source), oilseed radish (biological plow) and cereal rye (weed suppressor) as biomass provider, nutrient recyclers, and N source for NT grain crops, and bio-physical plow to reduce soil compaction of my farm.

    GOALS
    By researching “economically viable and environmentally manageable” farming practices under continuous NT, My GOALS were to demonstrate the effective use of cover crops to break-up soil compaction as a biological plow and recycle nutrients thru N rich labile biomass for crops.
    Specific objectives of my research were to:
    (1) Evaluate the effects of mixed cover crops (oilseed radish and winter peas) for biomass N contribution for succeeding grain crops (reduce input costs)
    (2) Measure the biological and physical effects of cover crops especially oilseed radish on reducing soil compaction
    (3) Evaluate the impact of cover crops biomass and N contribution on soil quality
    (4) Promote the research findings in on-farm trial to state regulators, county Extension Educators, and local farmers.

    PROCESS
    I used the NC SARE grant money to set-up field experiments on my farm with the help and advice of researchers from the OSU research and Extension. A total of five treatments arranged in randomized complete design were laid-out in the field in 150 ft x 300 ft long replicated plots with a 10ft wide buffer strip between plots. My long-term experimental treatments were:
    (1) Conventional tillage (CT) corn-soybean rotation: The CT plots were received 150Ibs N/ac from UAN for corn and 50Ibs N/ac for wheat. Phosphorus (P), potassium (K), herbicides were applied based on soil tests. This was one of my control treatments.
    (2) No-till (NT) corn-soybean rotation: The NT plots were received 150Ibs N/ac from UAN for corn and 50Ibs N/ac for wheat. P, K and herbicides will be applied accordingly. This was also one of my control treatments to evaluate the effects of transitional NT on creating soil compaction.
    (3) NT corn-soybean-wheat rotation with oilseed radish and cereal rye as cover crops: After harvesting wheat, oilseed radish was planted in late July and allowed to be winter-killed. Corn was planted in following spring within winter killed oilseed radish residues with 150lbs of N/acre. The P and K were applied to corn. Immediately after harvesting com, cereal rye was planted followed by rolling-over of rye in the late April. After I week, soybean was planted within rye residues. Winter wheat was planted after harvesting soybeans followed by oilseed radish after harvesting wheat.
    (4) NT corn-soybean-wheat rotation with winter peas and cereal rye as cover crops: After harvesting wheat, winter peas were planted in late July and allowed to be winter-killed. Com was planted in the following spring within the winter killed pea residues without any N fertilization. It was expected that required amount of N for com will be released from decomposition of winter pea residues. The P and K were applied to corn. Immediately after harvesting com, cereal rye was planted followed by rolling-over of rye in the late April. After I week, soybean was planted within rye residues. Winter wheat was planted after harvesting soybeans followed by winter peas after harvesting wheat.
    (5) NT corn-soy bean-wheat rotation with oilseed radish, winter peas and cereal rye as cover crops: After harvesting wheat, oilseed radish and winter peas were planted in late July in alternate rows, and allowed to be winter-killed. Com was planted in the following spring within the winter killed pea residues with only 50 lbs of N/acre. It was expected that remainder of the N for com will be released from decomposition of winter pea residues. The P and K were applied to corn. Immediately after harvesting com, cereal rye was planted followed by rolling-over of rye in the late April. After I week, soybean was planted within rye residues. Winter wheat was planted after harvesting soybeans followed by winter peas after harvesting wheat.
    However, this spring (at the initiation of the experiment), I had 8 different covers (oats, cereal rve, oilseed radish-drilled, buckwheat, hairy vetch, alternating rows of Austrian winter peas and oilseed radish, cowpeas, newlon peas, and Austrian winter pea) into which I planted com with a White planter on April 27th Com emergence was evaluated and that information is found on the yield data sheet attached. A chlorophyll meter was used to determine the amount of nitrogen to be applied for all covers. Leaf tissue samples were sent to a lab to evaluate available nitrogen for use to compare with meter readings. I applied nitrogen according to recommendations of the meter and lab results. The com was harvested in late October with Gleaner R62 combine using yield monitor with GPS to record data.
    Before the planting each cover, soil samples were collected to determine initial soil properties including pH, organic matter, total N, soil compaction and porosity, water holding capacity. I had a soil bulk density, penetration resistance, and compaction reading taken. There was a check for earthworms with the most worms found in soils of radish and winter peas planted in alternating rows. I am attaching the soil quality information from some of the covers. The SARE funds were used to buy cover crop seeds, get special plates for White planter, lab fees for meter reading, soil samples and tissue tests, large picture poster display for field days, twilight tour, and speaking engagements, postage for flyers sent to No-till on the Plains and other organizations to tell about the results (See attached expenditure).

    PEOPLE
    Organization…………………………………… Name…………………………….Activities
    ————————————————————————————————————————-
    Fairfield county SWCD………………. Dave Hippen…………………. Plan Field day
    State NRCS……………………………….. Mark Scarpotti……………… Plan Field day
    Ohio State University…………………Randall Reeder……………… Penetration resistance
    Ohio State University………………….. Kenan Barik………………… Soil compaction
    OSU South Centers……………………… Rafiq Islam………………… Data organization/analysis
    OSU South Centers ……………………… Yogi Raut…………………… Soil/plant analyses
    AGCO………………………………………….. Larry Mayer………………… Machinery dealer/Planter adjustment

    RESULTS
    The information for corn yield data and return per plot is on the attached 2009 data sheet. I have learned that oats, rye, and buckwheat control soil erosion and build soil tilth but did not retain/recycle nutrients sufficiently to lower fertilizer input costs.
    With radish and Austrian winter peas alternating rows, I found that N-P-K stored for the next crop significantly reduced the fertilizer needed. This was determined by taking soil samples and sending plants to be evaluated for nutrients (see attached chart: Recycling of nutrients by oilseed radish). We have found that radish and winter peas grow more vigorously when planted in alternating rows due to their synergistic effects. Radish obtained some N from peas to grow deeper and bigger and peas used radish as mechanical support to grow better for greater biological N fixation. Oilseed radish was found to be cracked the compacted soil layers and moved the soil upward to reduce soil compaction, improve drainage, and support earthworms and microbial diversity. Results are presented below in pictures, charts, and tables to summarize the multiple benefits of cover crops in continuous NT cropping systems:

    Table 1: Biomass production of oilseed radish and Austrian winter peas
    (see attached .pdf version of report for this table)

    Table 2: Nutrient recycling by oilseed radish biomass (Average of 4.8 tons dry-matter/acre)
    (see attached .pdf version of report for this table)

    Table 3: Soil quality properties influenced by cover crops
    (see attached .pdf version of report for this table)

    Fig.I: Soil penetration resistance (compaction)
    (see attached .pdf version of report for this figure)

    DISCUSSION
    – Learned about different types of cover crops and how they respond to different soil management practices in NT crop rotation.
    – Oilseed radish and Austrian winter pea combination were found excellent summer cover crops mix if planted after harvesting wheat in a corn-soybean-wheat rotation.
    – They can be winter-killed, produced – 5 tons of dry-matter per acre, and are efficient to fix N and recycle nutrients. On average, oilseed radish reduced compaction by >40% at 0 – 30 inches soil depth.
    – Mixing covers can improve benefits like extended green cover as living mulch, lower soil loss, higher crop yields, and reduce input costs.
    My recommendations will be change from having small acreage and having 1/3 operation in NT with cover crops. Use radish/peas (@2Ibs and 25Ibs) before planting corn; 15 in row of rye before beans.

    V. PROJECT IMPACTS
    The economic impacts from using cover crops in continuous NT can:
    1. Lower purchased inputs (fertilizers especially N) by more than 50%
    2. Reduce herbicides by 30% by providing mulch to suppress weeds.
    3. Improve soil quality
    4. Increase crop yields by 10 to 15%
    By using different combinations of cover crops (legumes and grass or non-legumes), farmers can reduce soil and nutrient loss, reduce input costs, and maintain good yields. By reducing chemicals use will help to improve air and water quality, and public health.
    I was invited to several radio/TV talk shows to discuss about cover crops and NT in different meetings, states, and regions. Receive email and telephone calls regularly to deliver information about suitable cover crops in NT farming systems.
    Farmers from different countries of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania are regularly visiting our farm. Sixty seven (67) Canadian farmers from Quebec visited our farm to learn more about short-term summer and winter cover crops and their benefits in NT crop production.
    NRCS trainees visited our farm to learn more about cover crops, soil quality, soil erosion, and compaction.

    V.OUTREACH
    I shared information about my project at the Ohio No-till field day in Radnor, OH. Using poster pictures as a visual aid and a shovel in the soil, I explained the information gathered from the plots on my farm. About 150 people attended from a Tri-State (IN, MI & OH) area. In late September, there was a twilight tour on the farm showing growing corn, soils pit and the cover crop plots for 20 I O. Seventy people attended from 5 states with many practical questions and lots of interest. Many farmers and seed and fertilizer company representatives have visited the farm and plots for information and visual tours. Graduate students (foreign and local) from The Ohio State University and employees of SWCD, NRCS, EPA, and ODA have toured the farm along with Cisco seed representatives and a Texas A&M professor.
    Several articles have been written in Successful Fanning, Country Journal, The Ohio Farmer, AGCO Advantage and information and photos were included in the January-February 20 10 issue of Resource, the magazine of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
    I will be presenting at the National No-till Conference in Iowa, the No-till on the Plains Conference in Kansas, the Tri-State Meeting in Pennsylvania, the International Brookside Lab Meeting in Ohio, the Innovative Farmer Meeting in Michigan, the CTC Meeting in Ada, Ohio and there will be farm tours on the home farm. My farm is one of the demonstration sites using by the Ohio State University. In brief, we have:
    – Conducted several twilight tours for local farmers
    – Established demonstration plots at the OSU for Farm Science Review
    – Spoken at 11 field days in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Indiana
    – Hosted 45 Canadian farmers from Saskatchewan
    – Held 2 field days with high attendance
    – Conducted radio/TV interviews
    – Wrote several magazine publications
    – Motivated Ohio 85 farmers to plant oilseed radish in wheat
    – Facilitated 16 Graduate students from OSU SENR to visit my farm

    VI. PROGRAM EVALUATION
    My recommendations are:
    1. SARE state coordinators should be involved more and more with the project.
    2. Farmers/Ranchers grant recipient needs support to visit SARE funded projects in other states.

    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.