Increasing Soil Health and Infiltration with Cover Crops

Project Overview

FNC16-1063
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $7,398.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Uit de Flesch Farms
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Vernon Uit De Flesch
Uit de Flesch Farms

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans

Practices

  • Crop Production: cover crops, ridge tillage, tissue analysis, conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil microbiology, organic matter, soil quality/health

    Summary:

    The project included two 35-acre fields, one field was seeded with cover crops and one was not. Both fields have the same cropping history of corn and soybeans; along with ridge till management practices. The cover crop seed included a mix of 23 pounds of Annual Rye, 4.8 pounds of Radish, and 19.6 pounds of Spring Wheat. This mix was chosen to prevent soil erosion and improve infiltration.

    From each 35-acre field, two soil samples were collected along with one grassed area control sample. The Haney soil test was used to compare microbial activity in the soil over the duration of the grant.

    Along with the Haney soil test, infiltration tests were conducted in the fall and spring on each field plot. An infiltration rate is the velocity at which water enters the soil. Infiltration is measured by placing a six-inch (height) by eight-inch (diameter) ring in the soil three inches deep, then adding sixteen ounces of water to the inside of the ring. The test was run continuously for an hour. The amount of times it takes the sixteen ounces of water to infiltrate into the soil was recorded as an infiltration rate of inches per hour.

    Yield data was also collected during crop harvest and a simple per acre economic analysis was completed for the two fields. Information included cover crop seed, fertilizer, and crop seed costs, as well as crop yield and value, gross income, and net income.

    Project objectives:

    The objective of this grant was to measure the benefits of cover crops using the Haney soil test and infiltration test. The Haney soil test was used to determine soil health year to year by using the “soil health calculation”. Infiltration tests were completed in the spring and fall to determine if cover crops increase infiltration within the soil profile. A cover crop mix of Annual Rye, Tillage Radish, and Winter Wheat was chosen to prevent soil erosion and improve infiltration.

    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.