This project confirmed previous field observations and identified that wood ash amendments of four, six, and eight tons per acre significantly affected the biological competitiveness of no-till hairy vetch when planted into perennial grass dominated hay sod typical of degraded hayfield field conditions. Vetch in the wood ash treatments averaged 30% of the biomass at an average of 1100 lbs/acre and would provide over 30lbs/nitrogen for the following crop. This compared with no vetch biomass in the control. The average biomass for no treatment was 3834lbs/acre and the average for the wood ash treatments was 5079, or about 1200 lbs more than the control. This shows that the vetch growth in the wood ash treatments accounted for almost all the additional biomass. No other treatments yielded a significant difference from the no-treatment control.
These results confirm a third year of observations and a second year of replicated trials. These results represent fourteen treatments with four replications in a randomized complete block experiment, three wood ash treatments yielded the only significant improvement in organic no-tilled vetch biomass. Other treatments included carbon treatments of biochar and sawdust, Liming treatments with fast acting lime and conventional lime, and Potassium treatments, and combinations of these treatments.
This project follows three years of work in organic no-till systems and followed exploration of techniques to not only organically no-till a row crop, into a roller crimped cover crop but to analyze some of the practices and amendments that might make organic no-till establishment of the cover crop itself possible. Success would enable greatly reducing tillage and energy inputs to establish new crops directly into hay sod. This project also relied on equipment and techniques developed with a 2009 NH Conservation Innovation Grant that demonstrated no-and low-till combined front and rear mounted equipment that established single pass planting of no-till vetch into hay sod. Those field trials showed that wood ash applications created conditions that favored the leguminous hairy vetch cover crop over the existing perennial sod (See attachments later in this report for photos of specialized equipment and of pilot projects and associated Cornell soil health test).
This trial had two primary objectives. The first was to test the reliability of previous field observations which showed a dramatic effect on no-till vetch when woodash was applied and to identify the level of diminishing returns for wood ash application. The second objective was to further isolate the reasons for the effectiveness of woodash on organic no-till hairy vetch establishment. The fourteen treatments of the randomized complete block design (RCBD) were focused on these two objectives. The treatment and plot design is attached. The primary performance target was to identify the treatment or treatment combinations which most benefited the competitiveness of vetch biomass over the established grass sod.