Tag Archives: CTIC

Cover Crops – Production Boost is Only the Start

CTIC logoThe Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) has been a champion of cover crops for many years, and the Oregon Ryegrass Growers Commission takes a  wee bit of credit for that being the case.

Since the early 1990s, Oregon’s annual ryegrass growers have worked with Midwest farmers to prove the value of ryegrass for cover crops. Gradually, universities and nonprofits began to take notice. Cover crops were, until then, seen as a threat to crop production.

Now it appears – given proper management of cover crops – that there’s practically no end to the benefits to planting cover crops. And yet, less than 10% of farms use the practice. Sure, it took a century of tillage to prove the damage of that system; it will take a few more decades before cover crops are uniformly adopted.

Take a look at this article, that quantifies the monetary value of cover crops. You’ll be amazed, and perhaps inspired to try cover crops yourself.

And, if you want to learn more, check out this brochure from the folks that started the cover crop phenomenon – the Oregon annual ryegrass folks.

CTIC Report Highlights Gains in Use of Cover Crops including Annual Ryegrass

Of more than 2000 farmers who responded to a Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), 88% say they use cover crops. Of that group, about 65% say they use cover crop mixes that include annual ryegrass. Click here to see the report online.

Reading the whole report is worth the effort, because it has tons of good information about the growing use of cover crops. Here are a few highlights.

  • Modest yield gains were again seen: 1.3% in corn, 3.8% in soybeans. For the first time, data was collected about the yield gain in wheat, when cover crops were used. The bump was 2.8%.
  • The average acreage planted in cover crops increased, too, topping 400 acres. Respondents said they planned to increase that size to more than 450 acres next year, an increase of about 17%.
  • Most farmers, in fact 75% of those answering the survey, said they planted their cover crop seed personally. The same number also said that they planted in the fall, after harvest.
  • A number to watch: 27% said they “interseeded” in 2016, planting cover crop into standing corn in the late spring, in conjunction with their side-dress or later.
  • Another relatively new practice: planting crops into spring annual ryegrass and other cover crops, soon to be terminated. Almost 40% said they tried the practice last year and report that it helps control weeds as well as  manage soil moisture
  • Cover crop mixes were rated the highest as a way to control weeds

The main reasons farmers claimed for using cover crops: soil health and improving yield consistency. Most said cover crops helped even from the first year of use.

Non-users (12% of survey respondents) said they were interested in cover crops but wary about the cost and time to plant them, worried about the crops becoming a weed problem, and thinking it might not pencil out economically. They did say, however, that they’re interested in tracking the use of cover crops and learning more about them, and would probably begin the practice if the cost share programs continue.

Future blogs on this site will go into more detail about some of these points mentioned above.

 

Annual Ryegrass at Commodity Classic – Feb 28

Annual ryegrass is among the most popular cover crops. As such, it will be among the key elements in a Cover Crop learning session at the Commodity Classic this year, in San Antonio, TX. The session will cover both the trend in cover crop use nationally, but also specifics on how to make cover crops work for your acreage.

The Conservation Technology Information Center and DuPont Pioneer are sponsoring the session. Here’s a link to a full story and details about attending

The learning center session, “Cover Your Assets: Improve Productivity, Efficiency and Soil with Cover Crops,” will take place Feb. 28 at 1:45 p.m. in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Room 217BC.

The presenters include Mike Plumer and Jamie Scott, both of whom have been long time annual ryegrass advocates. Mike worked for decades for the U. of IL as an Extension Educator. Jamie is an Indiana farmer, whose business now includes providing annual ryegrass seed flown onto about 60,000 acres each year.

Additional experts are Rob Myers, regional director of extension programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and  Karen Scanlon, CTIC executive director, who will moderate the session.

“Cover crops are an exciting topic that continues to gain the spotlight,” Scanlon said.