Report on Cover Crop Field Days, held Oct 27 and 28, 2010
90 people came out for the Wed. evening farm tour. The rain stopped and a beautiful rainbow appeared as we headed to the fields. Then we had a light supper and a chance to hear from the speakers and mingle afterward.
Thursday was a very nice day with a stiff breeze. There were 167 registered (representing 13 states) for the all- day event which featured the cover crop plots (24 species-3 planting dates) and speakers Jill Clapperton, Ray Weil, Brian and Keith Berns, and Chris Lawrence with the NRCS Rainfall Simulator. Other local presenters as were there as well.
I heard a few people say the Rainfall Simulator was the best part of the field day. I was impressed as well as it's the first time I saw it in action. They videoed it all 3 times it was ran so maybe the NRCS will make that available for more folks to see.
The 2 new covers I see as having significant potential is Blue Lupin and Sunn Hemp. Blue Lupin is a legume that has a nice taproot and seems to be a decent N producer. Not sure if or when it'll winterkill. Had temps in the mid to upper 20's the past 3 nights and that hasn't fazed them yet. Note the nodules at the root base.
The Sunn Hemp is the best N producer as a SUMMER cover. Planted-after wheat is ideal- and given 60 days to grow it will add 60-100lbs of N. It will be terminated at the first killing frost. Plus, it’s great for grazing as well and is a natural de-wormer for goats.
We also had a manure injection demo
And a cover crop rolling demo by David Groff.
The root viewing boxes also drew a lot of attention
Cover Crop seed identification contest- Michael Snow, from Vermont correctly identified 18 out of 24 species of cover crop seeds. He won a 50 lb bag of Tillage Radish®!
A novelty at these cover crop events is that farmers enjoy bringing in their “Trophy” Tillage Radish®. Here’s a picture of this years “best of the show”- an entry from Ohio.
Finally, the take home message from the field day is that cover crops are not like fitting a missing puzzle piece into the picture. Rather you need to rearrange the picture (your cropping system) in order to maximize their potential. Furthermore, I continue to maintain and observe that cover crop cocktails/mixtures are the trend of the future. Diversity is a key to the great benefits that cover crops have to offer. The only exception is that now, at least in my neck of the woods, cereal rye is about the only option. However, I am about to plant phacelia, fava beans, Tillage Radish, ryegrass and some clovers to see if a late fall "dormant" planting will work for some decent early spring growth.
In looking to the future I am shifting a significant portion of my farm to replicated cover crop research in cooperation with Universities and other agencies. My goal is to look at real farm economical benefits that cover crops have to offer over the long term.
Here are 2 articles that were written about the event:
Groff Farm Hosts Cover Crop Enthusiasts
Manure Injection Displayed at Cover Crop Field Day
From the intersection of 272 and 372 (south of Lancaster),
take 372 (Holtwood Road)
west 4.5 miles to Hilldale Road. Turn
right. Travel 1.5 miles to the Groff Farm - on the right.