- Agronomic: oats, rye, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: feed/forage
- Crop Production: cover crops, double cropping, intercropping, multiple cropping
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
The ACCF2 project will reach 100 small dairy farmers, 35 of whom will adopt key aspects of this forage production system that is based on managing soil resources for optimal health. Four project farms will serve as demonstration sites, with the project farmers sharing their experiences through field meetings that include hands-on exercises. The target audience will view the successful production of species suitable for this region that are part of a crop rotation that builds soil health, reduces soil and nutrient loss, as well as the need for pesticides. The dairy quality forages grown in each phase of the rotation are harvested by grazing or mechanically in a flexible time-range that alleviates the labor stress typical of our target audience. Through weekly crop monitoring, analyses of harvested forages, seasonal measures of soil health and fertility, and cost of production analysis, data will document and help illustrate the benefits of the ACCF system. The target audience has struggled to produce adequate quality and quantity of stored forage under traditional crop rotations with the compounding factor of excessive rainfall in 2003 and 2004. This duress has opened the target audience to learning about a production method that can produce better results than the traditional rotation of 3-5 years of corn silage followed by 4-6 years of an alfalfa/grass mixture. In the ACCF system conventional tools are used for all aspects of production. The rotation employs winter annual grains harvested as forage that provide soil cover, contribute to soil organic matter and improve friability. They are followed with the summer annual, BMR Sorghum-sudangrass, which may also be interseeded with a perennial (clover and grass). If grown alone, it is followed by a summer seeding of perennial clover/grass or a repeat of the winter grains. In all cases, a perennial would be established after 2 years of the winter-annual/summer annual sequence.
Performance targets from proposal:
- 35 farmers will change the basis of their crop system decisions. The soil will be viewed as the farm’s foundation resource, with management of its health a continual priority. This contrasts with the conventional mindset that focuses on managing crops without regarding the soil quality parameters that constitute soil health. Crop species selection, nutrient applications, tillage and harvest methods and timing will be rooted in the production and maintenance of optimal soil health. Evidence of this achievement will be adoption of one or more of the following four key components of ACCF on 10% of their acreage. 1. Assessment of soil health status through soil testing and/or use of field tools 2. Establishing perennials by Inter-seeding with summer annuals. 3. Planting of winter annuals with subsequent spring harvest as dairy quality forage 4. Utilization of manure as the primary nutrient application on summer annuals along with selection of healthy soil-status sites for such nutrient needy crops. The accomplishment of the Performance Target will be determined by surveying the target audience as follows: 1. Brief written surveys distributed and collected at Extension meetings, designed to ascertain past and current practices and future intentions regarding the 4 key components. 2. Interviews by ACCF personnel with the project farms to determine the farms experience regarding discussion of ACCF with others and if adoption of ACCF was known to occur. 3. Establishment of one or more mentoring groups, each consisting of a project farm, two or more other farms and project personnel to guide ACCF adoption. This employs the multiplier effect.