Study and develop tillage practices and timing of tillage for incorporation of cover crop plant material that will enhance nutrient availability and yield for the next crop

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $5,990.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans


  • Crop Production: cover crops, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil chemistry

    Proposal summary:

    Plant nutrition is becoming more and more expensive. Ray [Ray Rawson of Farwell, Michigan] and I have noticed in the last few years that in some cases we get a nice plant response and yield response to tillage that mixes green plant residue into the top few inches of soil along with plenty of air. This response seems to be enhanced if another aeration type shallow tillage is performed a few days later. We have done lab studies and have found a substantial increase in Mycorhizal colonization and a substantial increase in plant available nitrogen. Plants come up quicker, are taller, stems are thicker, roots are thicker and deeper, and yields are improved. These results have been, until recently, unplanned and unexpected but are documented. We believe that when green plant material is shallow incorporated with plenty of air in soils with plenty of beneficial biology, soil biology almost immediately begins to convert the material into plant available nutrition. When another aeration treatment is done a few days later we believe the added oxygen causes a burst of biologic growth which speeds and enhances the biologic conversion of nutrition. This enhancement of plant and crop growth seems to remain a benefit for the remainder of the season. Kimpel Farms has twice found the yield of corn more than double in a small part of a field where deep cultivation (2 inches) for weed control was done very early after corn emergence. In one case we stopped because we believed we were covering too much corn and in the other case it was much too wet. In both cases the whole field was cultivated a few days later. Weed control was very similar. Yield difference was very significant. In soybeans we had a situation where we were incorporating weeds with a dyna-drive at an angle to the field rows when we broke down. We came back to the field approx. 10 days later and went over the whole field 2 times and planted that day. It was very obvious the entire season where incorporation was done earlier the plants were bigger in all ways and yield increased. Rawson Farms incorporated some heavy clover on part of a field and killed the field with chemicals on the remainder. No herbicide was used on the area with the residue incorporated. Soil tests revealed that the area with incorporated clover had enough nitrogen for 150+ bu corn while the area burned down with herbicide had 1/3 that much nitrogen. We plan to use various kinds of cover crops including rye, wheat, clover, sweet clover, ryegrass, oats, buckwheat and others. We will also be using combinations of species. The fall and spring season will determine which species will be planted. Various implements will be used for incorporation including field cultivator, dyna-drive, aerator, and others. Various timing of tillage will be tested from planting immediately after initial incorporation to 2 or 3 tillage operations several days apart prior to planting. A quality beneficial microbe soil addition will be used as a variable.

    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.