A few photos from the August Cover Crop Workshop.
The Kalamazoo Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service and Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau held an education meeting focused on improving soil health through conservation tillage and cover crop best management practices. Johansen Farms demonstrated interseeding into seed corn and soybeans using their Hagie Cover Crop Interseeder. Cover crops were also broadcasted and disked onto a harvested green bean field. "Root pits" were completed in November and April to see exactly what was going on under what appeared to be a robust cover crop. The observations made during the root pit investiations are provided below:
Colleen Forestieri, Conservation Technician for the Van Buren Conservation District directed the field investigation and provided some of her observations based on her extensive experiences with cover crops. The pictures before the snow were taken on Novemnber 20, 2015 before the snow on November 23, 2015.
Green beans were harvested from this field in early August and three-way cover crop mix broadcasted and disked in mid-August. The cover crop mix consisted of rapeseed, crimson clover, and rye.
The cover crop looked great on the top however there were some uniformity issues, especially with the rapeseed.
Roots averaged 3-4 feet, however, some roots went almost 5 feet deep! Good nodulation on clover and fungus present residue. There were some earthworms present, most along the large rapeseed roots. There was a fat earthworm found 4 feet deep. The grower was very happy and loved the dark channels around the roots pushed through.
Seed corn male rows were removed and a three-way cover crop mix (25 lb. /acre) was interseeded in mid of August. The cover crop mix consisted of rye, oats and crimson clover.
By November, the cover crop looked great with good uniformty throughout the field. Roots went about 2 feet deep with some stragglers down almost 3 feet deep. There were some nodulations found on the crimson. The grower was disappointed with this field compared to Pit 1 due to the relatively shallow root depths. Reasons for this could be the timing of the seeding along with several other factors including shading by the standing corn, traffic, competition, compaction, and/or application method comparisons. There were indicaitons that the roots did break through the plow pan but compared to pit 1, there were few earthworms and very little fungus. It reinforces how hard seed corn operations are on our soils.
Oats and radish were interseeded on seed corn in mid-August.
Oat roots were observed over 3 feet below the surface! There was a significant network of roots just below the surface. The radishes were thriving, however, they could only penetrate the ground between 6-8 inches due to the hard pan. Grower was disappointed that the radish tuber did not go deeper…hit compaction layer (6-8 inches) and popped out of the ground.
Generally, the soils were of similar soil type- sandy loam. Pit 2 had a little more loam to it.
Incorporation of the cover crop seed is ideal but it isnt alwasy possible due to timing, weather, etc. Seed is incorporation provides better seed ot soil contact, moisture, and full photosynthesis potention. Roots have a better chance of growing deeper when seed is incorporated.
Residucal herbicide in the field may have effected uniformity of crop.
Compaction issues are greater in seed corn operations.
There was noticably less fungus in the seed corn which may be due to the use of fungicide on the seed corn.
It would be a good idea to dig additional root pits in the spring to observe the roots after the winter.
It's important to remember that you are "building organic matter" and this doesnt happen in one season. It takes time....be patient.
The root pits on April 19, 2016 were consistent with the finding of the Nov. 24, 2015 pits. The roots were a little deeper than they were observed in November.
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