In a series of videos produced by Sustainable Ag Research & Education (SARE): called Cover Crop Innovators, Midwest farmers talk about their experience with annual ryegrass and other cover crops.Click here for the whole series:
The Indiana-based Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative was awarded $750,000 (Conservation Innovation Grant) to further quantify the value of cover crops – including annual ryegrass – in the Midwest over the next 3 years. The money has already been used to hire a project director (Lisa Holscher) and line out highly-visible projects to help explain and educate regional farmers.
The project will include 12 farms in Indiana, each of whom is contributing to the project’s budget. Each farmer chosen already has shown experience with on-farm re search, conservation measures, hosting field days and making public presentations. Each will receive mentoring and technical advice as part of their investment. Several those chosen are long-term cover crop innovators (Dan DeSutter, Jamie Scott, Cameron Mills) and they’ll become part of the advisory team for teaching.
According to a news release on the project: The majority of the sites compare no-till/strip-till only to no-till/strip-till with cover crops. Other comparisons include: strip-till with cover crops vs. no-till with cover crops; reduced tillage with cover crops vs strip-till with cover crops; and no-till with single-species cover crop vs. no-till with a cover crop mix. More specifically, soil fertility, soil moisture, soil nitrate, soil temperature, cover crop biomass, and some of the new soil health tests will be done. Test results will be compiled and analyzed by Purdue University.
Partnering with CCIS in the project: Indiana Corn Growers Association, Indiana Soybean Alliance, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and the Purdue Cooperative Extension.
Earlier this week, more than 900 attendees at the annual Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference (Ada, OH) heard from more than 60 presenters on an exhaustive array of topic dealing with improving soil, reducing nutrient leaching and improving harvest yields.
Dan Towery and Jamie Scott presented in separate workshops in a day-long intensive on cover crops. Towery, together with Nick Bowers (an Oregon seed grower), Clem Bowman and Matt VanTilburg (no-till farmers) talked about managing annual ryegrass. While some still imagine this cover crop to be difficult to kill, VanTilburg dispelled that notion. According to Towery, VanTilburg said: “I never spray annual ryegrass (for a burndown in the spring) when the nighttime temperature falls below 50 degrees.” That’s a simple solution, Towery added, but not everybody will have ideal temperatures leading up to corn planting. For more information on management tips for controlling annual ryegrass, visit the annual ryegrass site by clicking here.
Jamie Scott, a Pierceton, IN farmer and cover crop innovator, was on a cover crop panel earlier in the afternoon and then presented later on his strategy for planting 35,000 acres of cover crops each year. Most of that acreage is in annual ryegrass, and all of it is aerial seeded by plane. Towery said that, based on comments by farmers in the northern corn belt, aerial seeding by plane or with high-clearance equipment is preferable simply because of the timing. It’s important to get good fall growth with annual ryegrass to give it the vigor needed to withstand winter temperatures. Planting after harvest is risky because early frost could then lead to the cover crop doing poorly.
At the recent National No-Till Conference (NNTC) in St. Louis, MO, cover crops seemed to be on nearly everyone’s minds. Record numbers of attendees (900+….350 of which were 1st timers) saw dozens of presentations and informal “round table” discussions where cover cropping was featured.
Ray McCormick, the No-Till Innovator award-winner from last year, talked about his novel cover crop seeding technique….attaching a Gandy Orbit Air seeder to his combine! The Vincennes, IN, farmer uses annual ryegrass.
“Most popular speaker award” winner from last year, Jamie Scott, was again at the NNTC and talked about seeding annual ryegrass on more than 30,000 acres near his farm in Pierceton, IN. He and his father act as brokers for the seeding service, contracting with air operators to apply the seed before harvest.
Terry Taylor, Geff, IL, won the No-Till Innovator award this year, and he talked about the value of cover crop mixes, including annual ryegrass, crimson clover and oilseed radish. Jamie Scott says he thinks the annual ryegrass and clover mix is mutually beneficial, as the clover has tons of nitrogen and annual ryegrass is a scavenger of N.
Ohio crop consultant Joe Nestor spoke about the value of cover crops in getting into the field early in the spring. Where acres were covered in cover crops, snow melt occurred two days ahead of nearby frozen ground. The cover crops contribute to more worm activity and soil biology…and that’s why snow melts off it sooner.