Integrated cover crop innovations for biologically based no-till

2006 Annual Report for LNE06-244

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $118,310.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Stacy Glackin
Rodale Institute
Jeff Moyer
The Rodale Institute

Integrated cover crop innovations for biologically based no-till


The team assembled to carry out the tasks of this project has made great progress in our objectives. We have selected a graduate student to work on all phases of the project – Ruth Mick. We created a list of possible farmer/cooperators and narrowed it down to (3) farmers who agreed to participate in the project – (Kirby Reichert, Bill Mason, and Peter Schuster). We have designed all the field studies to take place both on-farm and on the research sites. And we have established all the cover crops in those field areas prior to the 2007 planting season. At the same time we were able to take advantage of prior work to conduct field day events at Penn State as well as The Rodale Institute during the summer of 2006.

Objectives/Performance Targets

While this technology will impact many farmers across the region, we will track the 160 farmers who attend training events to determine their adoption of the practices. Of the 25 farmers who have been targeted as early adopters and who will use the techniques and tools demonstrated in this project, 10 will experience enough success that they will increasingly adopt the technology during the subsequent 3 years and will greatly reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides annually on at least 1,500 acres.


Milestone: Project staff will identify seven farms for potential collaboration. Selected farmers will be interviewed about their crop management practices, interest in research and willingness to share information and experiences with other agriculture professionals. Three farmers will be confirmed as collaborators for on-farm research, demonstrations and field days on acres in grain production in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York.

The three farmer collaborators are Mr. Kirby Reichert in Grantville, Pennsylvania; Mr. Bill Mason in Centerville, Maryland and Mr. Peter Schuster in Seneca Falls, New York. The common element in all trials is the use of a roller/crimper to mechanically manage cover crops ahead of a corn or soybean crops to be planted into the rolled cover crops using no-till practices.

Milestone: Researchers will initiate projects at The Rodale Institute experimental farm, Penn State’s research farm, and the three collaborator farms. Project participants will implement detailed monitoring plans to collect relevant agronomic data.

During fall 2006, fields for the research were identified and experimental designs were agreed upon. The cover crops were seeded at all locations between mid August and early November. At the two Penn State Research farms, a cover crop mixture of hairy vetch and oats was established on August 30th (Rock Springs) and on August 31st (Landisville). In this trial treatments will consist of rolling hairy vetch at four different times in the spring/early summer after which corn will be planted. The primary objective of these trials is to determine the optimum stage of hairy vetch development to be effectively rolled.

In a separate trial, rye was drilled on September 22nd in plots at Rock Springs and on October 14th, at Landisville. Soybeans will be drilled into these plots next summer. In these trials investigations will consist of the roller/crimper in combination with reduced herbicide rates. The primary purpose of these trials is to determine if it is possible to roll a rye cover crop and grow soybeans successfully with only a half-rate of burn-down herbicide and no post-emergence herbicide application.

Kirby Reichert is testing different types of cover crops for their suitability in south-central PA. On September 11th, crimson clover and wheat was broadcast onto plots on Bill Mason’s farm and then on October 22nd additional treatments consisting of the same cover crops were drilled into plots, to observe the different planting operations. In addition on October 26th two rye cultivars and one wheat cultivar were planted into corn stover to compare their winter hardiness and spring biomass production. Peter Schuster planted a rye cover crop to explore/compare the roller to other management tools, including herbicide control of rye and benefits from sub-soiling prior to soybean planting.

Here are a sample of the research projects conducted at the site of The Rodale Institute

1‘The Rodale Institute, Kutztown, PA

2 Evaluations of cover crop treatments rolled for no-till corn 2006-2007

3 No-Till corn trial 1a) Date of rolling /Hairy Vetch Kill Comparison

4 No-till Corn Trial 1b) Evaluation of reduced seeding rates by spatial manipulation of hairy vetch planted with a nurse crop of oats.

5 No-till Corn Trial 1c) Evaluation of Six Organic seed varieties (90 day RM to 113 day RM) for adaptation into the rolled no-till system. Hybrids provided by “Blue River Hybrids” Certified Organic Seed

6 Hairy Vetch cover crop Evaluations

7 Evaluation of Hairy Vetch accessions

8 Greenhouse Pot Study Evaluation of Germination and Early Seedling Growth

9 Evaluations of cover crop treatments rolled for no-till soybeans 2006-2007

Results from the on-farm research will be shared among project collaborators and prepared for dissemination to farmers and agriculture professionals.

Milestone: Two field days will be attended by 160 farmers who will learn the new concepts and techniques through lectures, workshops, and farm demonstrations. At least 120 farmers will respond to baseline surveys to gauge their interest in the new techniques. At least 80 farmers will respond to evaluation follow-up surveys to assess rates of adoption of the techniques.

Field days were held at both the Rock Springs and The Rodale Institute locations were this technology was presented to farmers and ag professionals. Even though these events were not targeted till 2007 we initiated them in 2006 as a preliminary task. We look forward to the 2007 on-farm field day events.

Milestone: At least 25 farmers will enroll in a collaborative program to try one of several rollers on their farms during the project period. Project staff will provide technical assistance and monitor progress and adoption of the new techniques.

Milestone: Eight users will fully incorporate the techniques into their cropping plans on 1,500 acres.

Milestone: Research results with case studies will be published in The Rodale Institute’s online magazine New Farm and on Penn State websites. Over 100,000 visitors (world wide) will learn about the project and the new techniques. Over 150 farmers and 50 Extension specialists from around the country will request more information from project staff.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

While we only in the early stages of this project we are extremely optimistic and feel very positive about the potential to reach our proposed outcomes. Each of collaborators and our graduate student are very excited to be involved in the activities and tasks initiated here.