- Agronomic: corn, rye
- Animal Production: winter forage
- Crop Production: double cropping
- Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, study circle
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns
- Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems
- Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, soil chemistry, organic matter, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: partnerships
Overwintering cover crops can conserve soil, improve soil health, capture end-of-season N and supply N for the following crop but farmers are more likely to plant such crops if there is a direct return in the spring (yield benefit). In fall 2010, a western NY dairy planted winter triticale after corn silage and harvested 2.3 tons DM/acre in spring 2011, increasing the overall per acre yield at the farm by 33%. Other farms implemented the practice of double cropping in recent year, partially driven by the 2012 drought that left many farms with a shortage in silage. Two main research questions remaining are: (1) how much nitrogen is needed at green-up to obtain these yields; and (2) how does double cropping impact field production economics and nutrient balances. Extension programming is needed to help farms evaluate the benefits of use of cover crops as double crops in corn rotations. In the spring of 2013, 44 on-farm trials were conducted statewide (NY) to evaluate performance of winter cereals on commercial farms and to specifically address the question: "How much N is needed at green-up to obtain economic yields?" The results showed optimum N rates that ranged from zero to about 120 lbs N/acre. Farmer feedback showed strong interest in continuing to pursue double cropping and on-farm N studies realizing that N guidelines can only be developed when multiple years are included to capture year to year variability and geographic differences (soil types, growing conditions etc.). Farmers also requested that forage quality be included in the evaluation of the double crops and asked for a thorough economic analysis. We proposed to expand on current work by including 8 additional on-farm trials in 2014 and 2015, and to analyze forage samples from the 2013-2015 trials, enabling more accurate assessments of the benefits of such forages on farm diet formulation and the need for feed imports. Our on-farm research partnership will be expanded with new collaborators to expose them to on-farm research and adaptive management. Our educational approach will focus on conducting on-farm research (partnerships with crop advisors) and management of rotations with winter cereals as cover and double crops.
Performance targets from proposal:
The goal of the project is to develop science-based management guidance for incorporation of double crops in corn rotations, taking into account fertility needs, yield, quality, economics, and environmental benefits and long-term sustainability, and to aid in the on-farm implementation of management changes (greater acreage, nitrogen fertilizer savings). Our performance target is: "Fifteen corn growers (dairy and cash grain operations) will grow 600 acres of double crops with an average fertilizer use of 60 lbs N/acre (40 lbs N/acre reduction), adding 2 tons DM/acre to the full season yield."