Fall 2012 On-Farm Cover Crops Field Days: Coming to 10 Farms near You!
Posted: October 16, 2012
This fall begins the 3rd year of a 3-year project being conducted across PA to educate Commonwealth farmers about the benefits of including cover crops in cropping plans, with a goal of stimulating farmers to establish cover crops on more of their grain crop acres. The project is funded by an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant that was awarded to Penn State in 2010. While the focus of the project is cover cropping on dairy farm fields from which corn was harvested for silage, the practice has application to numerous rotations where final harvests leave field surfaces with little or no vegetative cover. The major benefits from cover crops include:
- Reduction in soil erosion, especially during high intensity rainfall events AND during rapid melting of snowpack.
- Nutrient sequestration (uptake of fertility nutrients, especially N, that otherwise might leached or eroded from fields).
- Increasing soil organic matter content (improving soil’s ability to store fertility nutrients AND crop-available moisture).
- Opportunity to be harvested as early spring silage before the cover crop is terminated and the field is planted to another crop.
- The ability to fix N for use by succeeding crops, when legumes are included in the cover crop mixture; and
- Improve soil structure and soil tilth, increasing the success rate of no-till planting
Demonstration plots that include eight cover crop mixtures were no-till drilled into replicated strip plots on ten farms in ten different counties scattered across PA. These plots were drilled during the period between early September and early October. Ample rainfall and mild temperatures aided early growth so that plots are realizing excellent condition at all locations. A series of field days will be held at each site during November, permitting attendees an opportunity to see first-hand the field performance potential of these mixtures in each area. Each 2-hour event will include various discussions related to the benefits of cover crops, and questions are strongly encouraged. For more information, including the locations, dates and times for these field days, please visit our 2012 cover crop walks website.