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

2010 Annual Report for FNC09-756

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

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

Summary

[Editor’s Note: To see a copy of this report with proper bullet spacing, see the attached version.]

WORK ACTIVITIES
    3 separate test plots were set up for this research
• Corn Plot  –  Kimpel Farms
o The green manure crop was a run out meadow of grasses, clovers and alfalfa.
o The primary research variable was the timing of incorporation of green plant material.  We alternated strips of incorporation 3 wks. Before planting (incorporated earlier) and 1 day before planting (not incorporated early).  These strips run in a North – South direction.   Each strip was approx. 40 ft wide.
o Corn was planted East – West (perpendicular to tillage variable strips)
o One planter pass was designated for Data collection and nothing was applied to that area except seed corn.  This provided for 3  data areas that were incorporated earlier and 3 data areas that were not incorporated early:
o All data for the principal part of this research was collected from an area where:
? All primary research data collected from one planter pass.
? All within the same soil type.
? With no other variables as much as possible.
o Other variables were tested approx 30 ft to each side of the main test area including:
? 2 separate biological programs including microbes & food sources
? An area where cultivation was used right after emergence as opposed to 10 days later.  This was to see if there was any further benefit from more soil aeration.
? An area with the application of an Organic row starter applied with the planter
? An area where raw hog manure was applied before planting
? An area where somewhat aged beef manure was applied before planting
o Flags were set and all soil tests were taken within a few inches of each flag
? Soil tests taken May 31
• Base soil test –  Mehlick III  
• Saturated paste soil test – for water soluble nutrients (plant available)
• Nitrogen test –NH4 & NO3
? Soil tests taken August 9
• Saturated paste (looking for changes in plant available nutrients)
• Nitrogen test (Did the nitrogen last all season??)
• Soil biology test ( soil food web analysis)
• Plant tissue test – checking nutrient levels in the plant
? Yield was calculated with hand harvesting
• Each variable area was hand checked in three separate areas and averaged
• The final yields for each area was then an average of 3 areas and 3 checks per area or 9 separate yield calculations averaged together.

• Soybean   –  Kimpel Farms
o The entire field (mostly giant ragweed) was tilled and shallow incorporated (earlier incorporation) except one rectangular area (approx. 40ft x 200 ft) June 12.  The rectangular area was tilled and shallow incorporated July 3 (not early incorporation).  This rectangle was longer in an East- West direction.
o Soybeans were planted North – South (perpendicular to the rectangular area).
o Several planter passes were designated for data collection and nothing was applied to that area except seed.  This provided several data areas that were incorporated earlier and several data areas that were not incorporated early
? All data was collected on either side of the southern edge of the rectangle.
? Comparatives were taken within a few ft. of each other across that edge.
? In the same row
? Within the same soil type
? With no other variables as much as possible
o One other variable was tested approx 30 ft to the side of the Main test area
? 1 separate biological program including microbes & food sources.
o Flags were set and all soil tests were taken within a few inches of the flags.
? Soil tests August 9
• Saturated paste (looking for changes in plant available nutrients)
• Nitrogen test
• Soil biology test ( soil food web analysis)
• Plant tissue  test – checking nutrient levels in the plant
? Yield was calculated with hand harvesting methods
• Each variable area was hand checked in 5 separate areas and averaged.

• Soybeans  – Rawson Farms    Farwell, Michigan
o 100 + Acre fields
? Various cover crops
? Various types of tillage tools
? Combine yield monitor data was used for yields
? Comparing the yield of one field to another field.

RESULTS
• Corn   Kimpel Farms
o Soil Test Analysis
? Soil Phos. was Low    3 to 4 ppm
? Soil Ca. was a bit high      76 to 82%  base saturation
? Area not incorporated early Nitrogen total
• 14.5 ppm May 31
• 9.6 ppm Aug 9
? Area that was incorporated earlier Nitrogen total
• 28.3 ppm May 31
• 12.9 ppm Aug 9
? Saturated paste test    no significant difference
? Tissue tests      no significant difference
? Soil Foodweb       micro-biology analysis
• Ratios of Fungi to bacteria generally low for fungi
• The protozoa increased where the biologicals were used
• Less tillage probably produced more fungi
o Yield Analysis of primary variables  (timing)
? Areas not incorporated early               105 bu. per acre
? Areas that were incorporated early      137.3 bu. per acre
o 31%  increase
o Rows cultivated early after emergence over areas of earlier incorporation Yielded 140 bu. per acre.
? This did not seem to stimulate yield significantly after earlier incorporation.
o Biological Programs
? Where Biological programs were added on top of earlier incorporation:
• Areas that were incorporated early and had the biological programs added yielded 150 to 160 bu. per acre.
• Average is 155 bu. per acre
• These products were Biogenesis and Medina.  Microbial foods include Huma-carb, liquid fish and sugar.
• Increase over areas not early incorporated                 48% increase
• Increase over areas earlier incorporated                    13%  increase
o Where Certified Organic fertilizer was used at planting over earlier incorporated:
? Pigweed & velvetleaf was terrible
? Stand was much lower      1/3 less
? Yield was 71.5 bu. per acre
• Maybe the very high level of plant available nutrition threw the soil out of balance until the soil biology could get it back into balance.  In the mean time plant vigor and weed growth were affected enough to lower yield significantly.    ???????
o Where raw hog manure was applied before planting over earlier incorporated:
? Pigweed & velvetleaf was terrible
? Yield was 126 bu. per acre
o Where some what aged beef manure was applied before planting over earlier incorporated:
? Some weeds
? Yield was 157 bu. per acre

• Soybeans       Kimpel farms
o Soil test analysis
? Soil Phos. Levels are low      2 to 6 ppm
? Potassium levels are low        1.9 to 1.5% base saturation
? Soybeans seem to pull more NO3 from the soil. We found lower levels where yield was eventually higher (earlier incorporation)
? Earlier incorporation may have increased saturated paste levels for:  Mg, K, Na, B, Mn, and Zn.
o Other observations
? The beans planted in the area of earlier incorporation had an almost perfect plant stand.
? The beans planted in the area not incorporated earlier we found:
• The beans came up 3 to 5 days later.
• The plant stand was reduced at least 30%.
• The plants were at least 3 to 5 inches shorter and 3 to 5 inches narrower for the entire season.
• The plants died quicker and were darker at harvest.

o Yield analysis
? Areas not incorporated early                    24.5 bu. per acre
? Areas that were incorporated earlier      49.7 bu. per acre
o 103%  increase

o Biological program
? Although the Area with the biological program seemed to look better all season the yields were not statistically different.
? Area not incorporated early with biological  26.9 bu. per acre
? Area incorporated earlier with biologicals  49.7 bu. per acre
• Maybe we ran out of water.  ?????    Very dry!!

• Soybeans     Rawson Farms
? Areas not incorporated early               55 bu. per. Acre
? Areas that were incorporated earlier  90+ bu. per. Acre
o 67%  increase
I have on file and computer data all of the Laboratory data that was collected for this project.  I also have many pictures taken of the progress of the research.  I have a power point that I use to describe the 2010 research.

WORK PLAN FOR 2011
• I plan to collect additional data to further prove our hypothesis that timely earlier incorporation of green plant materials increases yields.
• I plan to try to learn how much earlier is important.
• We may look at whether an additional aeration after incorporation and before planting would be helpful.
• We plan to look deeper into whether the kinds of tools used for incorporation has significant impact.
• We plan to use our remaining funding to do various lab testing using the data gleaned in 2010 to make the decisions about which tests are statistically helpful.
• I would hope we would have at least:
• A corn trial at Kimpel Farms
• A soybean trial at Kimpel Farms
• A soybean trial at Rawson Farms

OUTREACH
• We took pictures throughout the growing season and have them archived for presentations and discussions.
• We made a presentation at a NRCS Field Day at our farm in November of 2010.
• Approximately 30 people attended.
• We developed a Power Point program with pictures and all significant data for presentation at the OEFFA conference in Granville, Ohio on February 19.
• Over 50 people attended my session.
• Several people asked questions following the presentation.
• I have shared this with my consultant group including John Kemp and Lawrence Mayhew.
• I have shared this research with several groups of Amish Farmers.