A new nationwide survey of 2,040 farmers shows that yield increases and profits increase with each additional year cover crops are planted.
In fields cover-cropped more than four years, corn yield increases attributed to covers rose 8.3 bu. per acre; soybean yields rose by 2.4 bushels.
Rob Myers, Regional Director of Extension Programs for SARE at the University, says “Cover crops really shine in challenging years,” when the diversity and biological benefits of covers help crops cope with stress. SARE is the national Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program.
You can read a summary of the SARE report, and access the full report free, at this link.
We’ve been testing cover crops four years on our WakeUP research farm. One distinct benefit we’ve noted in the plots is an easing of weed pressure. For example, in 2015 we drilled tillage radish and red clover in August following sweet corn on two acres. The tillage radish grew profusely and left a thick residue over winter. This spring, we saw very few weeds on that patch — right to the line where the radish/clover grew in fall 2015. The 2016 corn crop also looks especially good on that ground — possibly fueled by a richer biological profile in the soil.
Here’s how the tillage radish looked Sept. 25, 2015, when we sprayed test strips with WakeUP. Earlier research by Jim Porterfield showed that spraying WakeUP Spring on tillage radish raised the sugar level in the roots of young tillage radish, by increasing translocation of leaf sugars built by photosynthesis. What we learned was that this effect becomes more “diluted” the larger a tillage radish gets (and they get almost softball-bat size unless planted too thick).
Another reason we’re testing cover crops here at Cedar Falls, IA is our three-year search for a cover crop “terminating” alternative to glyphosate or gramoxone, amplified by WakeUP. Our manufacturing team has come up with a beta version of WakeUP we’ve nicknamed “WakeUP HOT” which drops the surface tension of water even more dramatically than WakeUP Summer. When used with a “natural” contact weedkiller like acetic acid, 32% nitrogen and certain other burndown blends, the cover crop not only burns down but has a more difficult time recovering. This approach could be very useful in keeping glyphosate residue out of fields: Especially helpful in desiccating green weeds in small grains.
Millers and consumers are gradually becoming aware, and concerned, about glyphosate use over wheat and oats to dry down the crop and any weeds in it.
We have another “underground asset” in learning about farmer successes with cover crops. Our daughter Stephanie is a writer providing conservation articles for the Howard G. Buffett Foundation series on Farmer to Farmer successes. These are published by Farm Journal, and they’re available online as PDFs. Here are some links to cover crop stories she has completed:
This is the overall link to the library of print materials at Harvesting the Potential, which include the Farmer to Farmer stories appearing in Farm Journal:Stephanie’s Farmer to Farmer reports, with links to PDFs you can download:STUDENT OF THE SOIL
FEBRUARY 2016 | FARM JOURNALhttp://harvestingthepotential.org/wp-content/uploads/HGBF-F2F-Vol2No1-MidFeb2016-FJ-Cade-Bushnell-4pg-LR-Trim.pdfBROADENING HORIZONS
DECEMBER 2015 | FARM JOURNALhttp://harvestingthepotential.org/wp-content/uploads/HGBF-F2F-Vol1No7-MidDec2015-FJ-Pete-Fandel-2pg-LR-FINAL.pdfMANAGE YOUR SOIL “LIVESTOCK”
NOVEMBER 2015 | FARM JOURNALhttp://harvestingthepotential.org/wp-content/uploads/HGBF-F2F-Vol1No5-FJ-November2015-DanDeSutter-FINAL-LR-TOpress.pdfINSURE YOUR SOIL, PROTECT YOUR WATER
SEPTEMBER 2015 | FARM JOURNALhttp://harvestingthepotential.org/wp-content/uploads/HGBF-F2F-Vol1No4-Sept2015-FJ-TimSmith-2pg-LR-Trim.pdfLOW DISTURBANCE, HIGH SUCCESS
JUNE 2015 | FARM JOURNALhttp://harvestingthepotential.org/wp-content/uploads/HGBF-F2F-Vol1No3-FJ-Summer2015-RalphHolzworth-2page-FINAL-LRtrim1.pdfPRINCIPLES FOR HEALTHY SOIL
JUNE 2015 | FARM JOURNALhttp://harvestingthepotential.org/wp-content/uploads/HGBF-F2F-Vol1No2-FJ-June2015-IanCunningham-2page-FINAL-LRtrim.pdfBUILD SOIL BY RESPECTING RESIDUE
MAY 2015 | HARVESTING THE POTENTIAL