Field Crop News

The latest news from the Penn State Extension Field and Forage Crops Team.
June 19, 2012

After a period of near, to slightly below, seasonal temperatures and low humidity, hot and noticeably more humid conditions will enter the state for the middle of the week ahead of an approaching cold front.

Meagan Schipanski, post-doctoral scholar in entomology, and Jason Kaye, associate professor of soil biogeochemistry, inspect a tillage radish cover crop.
December 1, 2011

Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have been awarded a $2.3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate how certain cover crops and rotations can improve production of organic commodities. The study's goal is to determine whether diverse cover crop mixtures -- as opposed to a single-species cover cropping -- can enhance ecosystem functions in a corn-soybean-wheat cash crop rotation that produces organic feed and forage, according to project leader Jason Kaye, associate professor of soil biogeochemistry.

November 1, 2011

The Penn State Extension Crop Management Team brings you 8 field walks in November to see and learn about cover crop mixtures after corn silage for supplemental forage, erosion control, soil improvement and nutrient cycling. See crimson clover, annual ryegrass, triticale, forage and grain oats, tillage radish, hairy vetch, and cereal rye planted in various mixtures. Field walks will be held in Blair, Dauphin, Franklin, York, Bucks, Lebanon and Northumberland counties.

Following a forage radish cover crop, Kohlrabi was no-till planted without the use of herbicides at a research site in Maryland.
June 15, 2011

Even though the challenges of this year’s wet cool spring are starting to pass, NOW is the time to start thinking about early fall cover crops that just might be able to help you get your early spring vegetables started earlier next year. A new project aims to enable earlier vegetable planting in spring without the use of herbicides or tillage though the use of alternative cover crops. Under a grant from Northeast SARE, a team of research scientists, extension agents and farmers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are working to develop new systems of no-herbicide no-till planting of early vegetables into a seedbed prepared by low-residue winter-killed cover crops such as forage radish.

Figure 1.  The Penn State Cover Crop Interseeder and Applicator. (Photo: Patrick Mansell)
June 13, 2011

Cover crops can play many important roles in cropping systems that are well recognized: preventing soil erosion, enhancing soil carbon, reducing drought stress, suppressing weeds, minimizing nutrient runoff and providing supplemental forage. Despite these advantages, the establishment of cover crops is often limited by the late fall harvest of the corn or other crops, which leaves little growing season for a functional cover crop to become established. The cost of cover crop seeding can also be an issue with the expense of an added trip across the field and seed costs keeping some crop producers from using the practice. With increasing needs to limit nutrient runoff and leaching into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a growing desire to harvest corn stover, and an increasing need to develop strategies for increasing forage production on livestock farms, there is a critical need to develop technologies that overcome the issues with cover crop establishment in corn in our region.

May 31, 2011

Farmers using a cover crop seeder developed by Penn State agricultural scientists may eventually need only a single trip across the field to accomplish what takes most farmers three passes and several pieces of equipment to do...

Penn State agricultural scientists put a multipurpose cover-crop seeder through its paces at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center. Photo by Patrick Mansell.
May 26, 2011

Farmers using a cover-crop seeder developed by Penn State agricultural scientists may eventually need only a single trip across the field to accomplish what takes most farmers three passes and several pieces of equipment to do. Pennsylvania farmers are increasingly interested in growing cover crops, but the time, cost and late fall harvest of corn and other crops often limit their use, said Gregory Roth, professor of agronomy. The seeder can help farmers, especially small operations, save time and money by condensing multiple tasks into one trip through a no-till field. It also would allow farmers to seed fields that lacked cover crops due to late season and cost concerns.

A roller-crimper terminates a mature cereal rye cover crop at Penn State's Rock Springs Research Farm.
May 26, 2011

We have heard about and seen a few cereal rye fields that either did not get harvested for forage or have not yet been sprayed or managed as a cover crop. We had a number of experiments over the last several years focused on managing cereal rye in no-till soybean where we roll the rye with a roller-crimper followed by soybean planting. We have included herbicides in this system and also experimented with organic no-till.

April 21, 2011

Penn State Extension's On-Farm Research Program and Crop Management Team collected cover crop biomass samples from the statewide network of demonstration sites in November 2010. Results of the biomass sampling are now available by individual site and pooled across sites and cover crop mixtures. Forage quality samples were collected at the Lebanon, Montgomery, and Dauphin County sites for the annual ryegrass + crimson clover, oats + cereal rye, and cereal rye + tillage radish mixtures.

April 19, 2011

Rye cover crops are one of the fastest growing cover crops in the spring. To ensure high quality ryelage harvest, producers must have harvest equipment ready to go. Quality of ryelage rapidly decreases with maturity and one day in harvest delay can make the difference between high quality and average to poor quality forage. If producers rely on custom harvesters, these individuals need to be contacted now to plan approximate harvest schedules.

Red clover planted in a test strip in York County, PA.  The clover was planted in late August following wheat.  The photograph was taken the next spring on April 20.
April 19, 2011

With tight economic conditions there has been increased interest in using legume cover crops to supply N to corn. While this has not been the subject of a large amount of research, a recent summary of the available research has shown that red clover established in wheat or oats and then left to grow as a cover crop until the next season can contribute between 45 and 155 lb N/A to the next corn crop.