This farmer-driven proposal builds on a 2015 NC SARE (FNC15-1018) funded project to Mr. Ralph Upton Jr. entitled “Utilizing precision application of cover crops to minimize planting challenges while maximizing benefits to corn”. Although only funded for one year at 1 site, Upton and a local consultant have continued the precision cover crop trial for 4 years without outside funding, due to the positive and interesting results observed and great interests from growers in Illinois and neighboring states. They have identified production advantages of up to 50 bu/acre with precision planting of cover crop species and mixes planted in various placement in relation to the corn row, compared to no cover crop, no-till treatments. This proposal aims to answer some growers questions including (1) does corn yield benefits at Upton’s farm expand to other soil types/environments?; (2) does a 6-yr precision planted cover crop mixtures improve soil health?; and (3) what are the economic benefits of this system? Integrating this research with outreach approaches including hosting on-farm field days, writing a fact sheet being integrated into student’s course material, and presenting at regional/national meeting, this project will increase cover crop adoption before corn and improve sustainability of corn-soybean cropping systems.
Project objectives from proposal:
The objective of this proposal is to evaluate the effectiveness of precision planting cover crop mixtures (skipping the corn row or planting winter-killed cover crops on the row) vs. cover crop mixtures (no skipped rows) before corn in a corn-soybean cropping system to:
- Evaluate soil health benefits of precision planted cover crops using a medium-term trial
- Quantify cover crop performance
- Assess corn performance and quantify the end of season N following corn harvest
- Evaluate the economics of each cropping system
- Demonstrate soil health and economic benefits through on-farm research and novel outreach methods