Transitioning to Sustainable Agriculture Using Continuous No-Till and Cover Crops
The money was used on soil tests and tissue tests for nitrogen uptake for corn in winter peas. We are using some of the money currently to test the ability of cover crops to convert the break-down of winter manure into an organic form in the soil to reduce leaching of nutrients into the watershed. We are testing the water samples at the creek with buckets at the end of tile lines to determine the effectiveness of cover crops to sequester nutrients. Money was spent to develop an interseeder for planting cover crops in standing corn; an additional 17 farmers in four counties participated. At the state wildlife area we helped with seeding and testing of land adjacent to Grand Lake St Marys to reduce run-off of nutrients from the cornfields. Additionally, we had multiple cover crop demonstration plots planted at the state park.
We are finding that cover crops are by far and away the best method to return the soil to a healthy productive condition that will allow for maximum profitability with the least negative effect – if not a net positive effect on the environment. Early tests show that the grain crops will have less disease, less weed pressure, and the cover crop serves as an early protection against a cold and wet spring. Based on the net publicity from the project and the excellent results, it appears in talking with local seed companies, based on the orders for cover crop seed that we will experience a ten-fold increase in cover crops over 2010. All of the participants in the project are ahead of schedule in fully implementing a cover crop no-till system on all of their acres. The biggest positive result is the proliferation of the methods out into the greater farming community this quickly.
WORK PLAN FOR 2011
We very intrigued to see how a second year into this type of system affects results. The interseeding machine is scheduled for more acreage after some adjustments. We are going to continue to test tissue and water samples. We will continue to educate the public through demonstrations and media outlets. We are participating locally in a drive to raise $200,000 for our state extension office to further advance these purposes.
The cover crop crop walk had a little over 100 people. The fair booth would have had close to 1,000 stop-bys. We managed to make the local papers or radio station at least once a month. Each participant received numerous phone calls and questions from the community. Due to the growth and excitement of the project, I think the biggest selling point was the visibility of the crops in the field as the cover crop grew, and then the grain crop was interseeded, and the grain crop came to replace the cover crop and it was evident that it was a productive crop. Each participant said they received numerous neighborhood questions on how did this or that field do that was part of our experiments.