Adequate nutrient supply, erosion and weed control are challenges in an organic system. This project over two years will investigate the establishment of wide-row strip-till corn in a living cover crop of established alfalfa and mulching of corn rows with a mower/mulcher to address these challenges. Alfalfa is a common rotational crop in an organic system that is typically terminated by full width inverted tillage. According to North Dakota State University Extension fertility recommendations alfalfa terminated by tillage will supply adequate nitrogen to a subsequent corn crop without further additions in a conventional cropping system. Tillage however, leaves the soil susceptible to erosion and in-season tillage will be needed for weed control in an organic system. Previous and current studies utilize perennial clover or annual cover crops seeded at or near the same planting date as corn for erosion and weed control. This system, which was proved feasible in crop year 2020, maintains adequate soil cover for erosion control and weed control. The system needs further investigation of soil health effect, moisture availability, adequate nitrogen and overall crop and economic performance. Additionally, a prototype mower-mulcher implement will need to be developed to mow alfalfa and mulch 44-inch corn rows.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Evaluate performance of wide-row strip-till crop production in perennial alfalfa over two growing seasons
- Assess impacts on physical health/qualities of soil
- Monitor soil nitrogen mineralization over two growing seasons
- Assess soil biological composition effect of compost
- Develop and test prototype mower/mulcher
- Conduct a field day and present findings in a pdf format for technology transfer and present information at workshops when requested