Flooding is projected to increase in the New England region. This change in weather will effect agricultural productivity by reducing time a farmer can work the field due to soil saturation and causing potential loss of soil fertility. Cover crops may be used either as a pro-active or reparative method to alleviate degradation caused by flooding. In this study, three sites were located on flood-prone organic agriculture land and the following six cover crop treatments were assessed: rye to increase infiltration, lupine to increase available phosphorus, vetch to increase and store nitrogen, radish to increase infiltration, a mix of these four, and fallow treatment for comparison. Overall, the data indicates that the cover crop treatments examined in this study did have a significant impact on soil quality parameters, however the impact was not consistent across all sites at all measurement dates. The data also suggests that cover crop treatment did not have a statistically significant impact on quantity or quality of the indicator cash crop, corn. However, this study was conducted over one year and with poorly established cover crops. Planting the cover crops earlier to allow enough time for adequate growth may produce different results showing greater benefits of cover crops.
Sept/Oct 2012: Seeding cover crops. Count initial weed populations. Setting goals for the first brochure on flooding; Set up web page, Start blog.
Cover crops were seeded later than expected. This is a busy harvest time of year for farmers and my priority was not necessarily their priority. Furthermore, I did not have the knowledge of how long disced crops would need to decompose nor the skill to operate the machinery myself. Pictures of emergence can be seen at Arethusa Farm in Figures 1-6, Adam’s Berry Farm in Figures 7-12, and Intervale Center in Figures 13-18. Information on climate change and flooding effects on soil were collected. The webpage (www.floodedsoils.wordpress.org) was created and maintained on a weekly basis during the growing season. If a week was missed, two entries would be made the next or additional entries past initial end date. Compaction was measured by penetrometer at 6, 12, and 18 inch depths.
November 2012-March 2013: Cover crops visually assessed, lab analysis of soil samples, and results statistically analyzed. Brochure draft written.
2013 Ongoing: Soil and data analysis for active carbon, nitrogen, other nutrients, pH, bulk density, and aggregate stability. May 2013 Intervale Center nutrient analysis (other than N) was incomplete due to ICP equipment malfunction.
January-February 2013: Preparation for NOFA Winter Conference Intensive Workshop and present “Flooding, Soil Quality, and Cover Crops.”
April/May 2013: Cover crops terminated by tilling. Post flood soil fertility tests were collected and compaction measured. Cover crop biomass samples.
Pictures of regrowth and flooding can be seen at the Intervale Center in Figures 19-21. Cover crop regrowth can be seen at Adam’s Berry Farm in Figures 22-27. Cover crops were terminated later than anticipated. This was due to the time requirements necessary to collect all samples. Cover crops were disced in at Arethusa Farm and Adam’s Berry Farm. Cover crops were not tilled in at the Intervale Center due to prolonged and prohibitive length of soil saturation with water. Post flood fertility and soil physical tests were conducted at Adam’s Berry Farm and Arethusa Farm. Corn was planted at Arethusa Farm and cover crops for demonstration during the field day were planted at Adam’s Berry Farm. Preparation for NOFA Summer Conference did not occur. Instead, preparation was done for the field day and was a part of NOFA’s fall workshop series.
June 2013: June soil and leaf tests were delayed until August due to delayed discing of cover crops. Corn seeds were planted. The fact sheet was edited to reflect new finding in data analysis.
July/Aug 2013: Corn growth and deficiency symptoms in the corn crop were assessed.
Corn crop emergence at Arethusa Farm in July can be seen in Figure 39. Corn crop growth in August can be seen at Arethusa Farm in Figures 28 and 29. A picture of average weed emergence in corn crop growth at Arethusa Farm is in Figure 30. Soil samples were collected in August. Upon processing soils for lab analysis, it was discovered that a bag was mislabeled calling into question the accuracy of all soil samples. As a result, soil data from August 2013 at Arethusa Farm (corn crop) is not presented. Corn tissue was collected for analysis. Corn height was measured. Corn yield has been collected, dried, and weighed. Corn leaf samples have been dried and ground, and analyzed. Corn heights were measured. Adam’s Berry Farm was replanted with larger plots for cover crop demonstration (Figures 31-38). The field day was reschedule to be apart of the NOFA fall workshop series.
September 2013: Field Day
The field day had 15 participants and the brochure (Figure 46) was disseminated at this time.
October 2013: Biomass samples collected at Adam’s Berry Farm. Corn heights measured, ears harvested, and brix measurements were taken to test for sweetness of corn.
January 2014: Presented at Cornell’s Cooperative Extension’s Climate Change Session and University of Maine’s CCA Conference
February 2014: Poster presented “Flooding, Soil Quality, and Cover Crops: Two Case Studies” during NOFA’s winter conference and the No-Till and Cover Crop Symposium hosted by Middlebury Extension (Figure 47). Paper copies of the cover crop survey deployed in person at conferences and online via Middlebury Extension monthly electronic newsletter.
March 2014: Mycorrizae staining and scoring initiated and not completed due to difficulty of assessment of damaged roots from prolonged storage. Analysis of pH complete.
June 2014: Site visit to Adam’s Berry Farm (Figures 41-45). Samples not collected due to lack of statistical analysis of one repetition.
- Arethusa Farm Cover Crop Establishment October 2012
- Arethusa Farm Corn Crop August 2013
- Adam’s Berry Farm Cover Crop Demonstration Plots May 2014
- Adam’s Berry Farm Cover Crop Establishment October 2012
- Intervale Center Cover Crop Establishment October 2012
- Brochure for Field Day
- Intervale Center Cover Crop Regrowth Spring 2013
- Adam’s Berry Farm Cover Crop Regrowth Spring 2013
- Arethusa Farm Corn Crop July 2013
- Adam’s Berry Farm Cover Crop Demonstration Plots August 2013
- Two Case Studies Poster Winter 2013