Evaluation and demonstration of teff as a summer annual cover crop on clay soils

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2006: $9,984.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Michael Hunter
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County


  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, double cropping, no-till, nutrient cycling, conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization

    Proposal abstract:

    This proposed on-farm research and demonstration project develops sustainable and environmentally favorable forage cropping systems that are adapted to farms located in agricultural regions where heavy clay soils are predominant. Heavy clay soils are an agronomic challenge because while the water holding capacity of these soils is high, they are susceptible to compaction that limits rooting and can cause moisture stress. This project will explore the potential use and production of teff as a summer annual cover crop for forage. This alternative cover crop will fill the open spaces following a spring cereal for forage or a winter cereal crop grown for forage or straw. The primary objectives are to compare two different seeding establishments methods for teff and to determine the optimum nitrogen rates to produce a high yielding, high quality forage that can be grown in approximately 50 days.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The primary objectives of this research and demonstration project are to compare two different seeding establishment methods for teff, determine the optimum nitrogen rates for the production of teff using dairy manure and/or commercial fertilizer sources and to produce a high yielding, high quality forage that can be grown in approximately 50 days. Teff has the potential to fit nicely into a crop rotation that has a summertime open space window that may be too short for the profitable production of most other summer annual forage crops. Teff will provide dairy farmers the opportunity to apply manure to a summer annual crop that will utilize the nutrients supplied by the manure. Teff can be harvested as a high moisture forage crop and ensiled during storage or baled as dry hay.

    This project demonstrates and promotes sound crop rotation practices using winter cover and summer annual crops, returning crop residue, and adding manure to these fine textured soils to help control erosion, maintain soil tilth and organic matter content. As a result moisture which is needed for plant growth, but can be limiting on these soils at certain times of the growing season, is conserved.

    The implementation of well-designed, statistically valid on-farm research comparisons is imperative to the success of this project. Each field experiment will be designed using spatially-balanced block design (vanEs and vanEs, 1993). The use of these designs will facilitate good field experimentation and remove concerns about undesirable designs.

    A soil nutrient analysis (Cornell Soil Test) will be taken from each teff planting site prior to establishment. Pre and post season soil nitrate samples will be taken from each manure/fertilizer treatment in order to determine the nitrogen efficiency rate. The sample results will be useful for determining the optimum economical nitrogen rate with respect to our environment.

    Both conventional and no-till seeding establishment methods are included in this project. For each establishment technique, four different nitrogen rate treatments (0, 50, 75, 100 lbs. N per acre) with three replicates. Our dairy farm cooperator site will include the addition of manure as a fertilizer treatment. A manure nutrient analysis sample will be submitted to Dairy One and the actual applied manure rate will be calculated.

    Forage dry matter and quality samples will be collected at harvest for each individual treatment. The forage nutritive analysis will be performed by Dairy One Forage Laboratory. Milk per ton and milk per acre calculations will provide relative rankings of forage samples for each treatment using the MILK2000 spreadsheet, version 7.54, developed by the University of Wisconsin. The standard inputs needed for MILK2000 include dry matter percentage and yield, crude protein percentage, 48-hour in vitro neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibility, NDF percentage, ash and ether extract.

    Field observations including plant growth, pest problems, and success of seeding establishment will be monitored throughout the season. Rainfall and growing degree days will be tracked and recorded. The calculation of crop production inputs, including machinery cost estimates will be reported for each site.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.