Tag Archives: improve soil health

The Cost of Dirt Just Went Up

In Oregon, the Democratically led legislature is trying to pass a bill that would pay overtime to farm workers for the first time. Despite frequently putting in overtime year-round, worker have never received time-and-a-half for hours worked beyond 40 per week.

A sign of fairness? A sign of inflation? As you might expect, employers are not happy with the prospect of more wages, on top of everything else that seems to be more expensive.

Speaking of inflation…fertilizer prices went up 200 to 300 percent in one year! What the heck is going on?

News today about a Congressional investigation into the astronomical increases in nitrogen and other fertilizers hit like a ton of rocks. Inflation in drug prices, land values and more have been constant. But 300 percent?

No doubt the cost of farming is going up, and there’s no guarantee that commodity prices will consistently follow that trend.

What’s a farmer to do about these rising prices if you’re wanting to hang in there, perhaps see the acreage being managed by your kids or grandkids?

Remember the slogan from the Goldrush days: “Eureka, We Hit Paydirt!”

Well, it’s becoming abundantly clear that annual ryegrass and other cover crops creat pay dirt. Here are the ways:

  • stops erosion
  • increases microbiology activity
  • increases organic matter
  • reduces annual weeds
  • sequesters nitrogen
  • improves crop yields
  • improves rooting depth in compacted soil
  • fattens your wallet!

It’s this last piece that should interest you the most. Because with the cost of N going through the roof, you can significantly reduce N inputs with annual ryegrass by itself, or in combination with other cover crop seed.

Planting a cover crop for the first time takes patience and a bit of money. But the investment will pay dividends immediately in a dry year and will continue to build value in the soil, without so many inputs.

Click here for more information on managing annual ryegrass.

Click here to watch some videos on annual ryegrass management and benefits.

Farmers increasing cover-crop use

The annual report from the CTIC (Conservation Technology Info Center) published recently is more good news for the soil, the planet and the farmers who employ the cover crop technique. (Click here for the full report, including graphs). The news was reported by www.Agriview.com.

Here’s a paragraph outlining the gains being seen in the Midwest.

“Cover crops are growing in popularity by leaps and bounds among farmers. A recent survey of more than 1,200 growers throughout the United States showed cover crops boosted corn yields in 2014 by an average of 3.66 bushels per acre, or 2.1 percent, and soybean yields by 2.19 bushels or 4.2 percent. Last year was the third-consecutive year that yield boosts from cover crops were recorded by the Conservation Technology Information Center, a public-private partnership in West Lafayette, Indiana.”

“The 2015 survey also recorded a fifth year of steady increase in the average number of acres planted to cover crops by survey respondents, at almost 374,000 acres this year. The average number of cover-crop acres per farm in the annual surveys has nearly tripled over the past five years. The average cover-crop acreage per respondent planting a cover crop was 300 acres in 2015.”

From 1200 respondents, the survey determined that cereal rye and annual ryegrass are still the top cover crop seeds used. Here’s the breakout of use reported by farmers:

“Among cover-crop species, cereal grains and grasses are most popular, planted by 84 percent of cover-crop users. Cereal rye accounted for 44 percent of the total cover-crop acres in 2015. Annual ryegrass was a distant second with about half cereal rye’s acreage. Oats was third, covering 17 percent of respondents’ land in 2015. Triticale and winter barley rounded out the top-five cereal grains and grasses.”

It also appears that brassicas, including radish, turnips, rapeseed and canola, continue to gain in use, especially as the practice of seeding four or more cover crop species together in a mix continues to increase.

Interestingly, the top reason farmers cited use of cover crops was because it aids the improvement of soil health. The CTIC had assumed previously that the main reason was because it improved the chances of better production and, thus, profit.