- Agronomic: corn
- Crop Production: cover crops, no-till, relay cropping
- Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, workshop
- Pest Management: integrated pest management
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
Problem and Justification. Integrating winter cover crops in annual cropping systems can provide important conservation and crop production benefits at field and watershed scales, yet recent surveys indicate that greater than 60% of grain crop acres in PA and NY remain fallow in winter. Farmers have considered post-harvest seeding cover crops a poor return on investment because of the limited growing season to establish cover crops following corn grain or soybean harvest. However, increasing interest in soil health has raised farmer awareness of alternative practices, including interseeding cover crops into corn earlier in the growing season. The recent development and commercial availability of high-clearance interseeder drills facilitates cover crop establishment early in the season (V5 corn growth stage) and applied research and extension programs within the Northeast have developed best management practices (BMPs) for drill-interseeding cover crops in no-till corn. Grower engagement and preproposal surveys suggest two primary challenges that prevent expansion of interseeding practices in the Northeast. First, farmers are unwilling to invest resources to interseed cover crops without assurance that conservation and production benefits of interseeded cover crops will be consistently realized. Second, the performance of interseeded cover crops is a function of context-dependent interactions between climate, soil and crop management practices. Our project will utilize participatory research and education programs to support the development of regionally-specific cover crop interseeding BMPs.
Solution and Approach. This project will engage PA and NY corn grain growers in educational activities that focus on current cover crop interseeding BMPs and conservation benefits to foster more widespread adoption of cover cropping. We will address technological barriers to adoption by engaging a distributed network of SWCDs and agricultural service providers within PA and NY that own interseeder grain-drills and operate either a no cost loan or fee-for-service program to facilitate and promote the integration of cover cropping for soil and water conservation. We will address environmental barriers to adoption associated with inconsistent performance by evaluating the performance of interseeding and post-harvest seeding strategies across distributed on-farm demonstration trials. This coordinated effort will assist in identification of environmental and management conditions where interseeding optimizes conservation benefits relative to post-harvest seeding. We will address management barriers to adoption using regionally-distributed on-station experiments that evaluate novel interseeding management practices. Experimental crop management practices will aim to increase resource availability in space and time to interseeded cover crops by manipulating corn population rates, varieties, row-spacing and interseeding timing.
Performance Target. Fifty agronomic farmers will implement a management practice that facilitates adoption or improves performance of interseeding cover crops in corn on 100 acres per farm. Changes in management practices will decrease soil erosion potential, decrease nitrate-N leaching, and increase weed suppression on 5,000 acres in the Northeast region.
Performance targets from proposal:
Fifty agronomic farmers will implement a management practice that facilitates adoption or improves performance of interseeding cover crops in corn on 100 acres per farm. Changes in management practices will decrease soil erosion potential, decrease nitrate-N leaching, and increase weed suppression on 5,000 acres in the Northeast region.