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Cover Cropping: A Tool to Rebuild and Restore Your Soil

Seth Shaffer

Conference

Recorded

  • January 14, 2021
    2:45 PM
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All right so to start off I wanted to ask a question how many of you are currently actively using cover crops on your farms Ok cool good I'm happy that I'm happy to see that hopefully by the time this presentation is done we will all have learned something new about cover cropping and its role in rebuilding and restoring the soil so cover crops are one of the easiest and primary means of soil fertility for farmers as well as nutrient management so cover crops help to do a number of different things for us soil they help to prevent erosion they restore nutrients back to the soil and they keep living roots in the soil before during and after our cash crops cash crops would be anything that you're planting for crop to take to market or for home use so I want you to think. Of the soil like your bank account if all you ever do is your bank account is pull money out what's going to happen. You're going to go broke sooner or later the same thing is true with the soil also oils come with a certain amount of nutrients r.t. there sometimes is a greater amount sometimes it's a lesser amount depending on where you are in the country and what has happened to that soil before you got to it and started using it. So with every crops that you plant and you harvest you're removing nutrients so unlike the bank I can't just go to my soul and drop a $100.00 on it and I've replenish the nutrients I have to do some other things to it so one of the methods of returning nutrients to the soil is cover cropping. Now it is true that you can apply synthetic fertilizers to your fields to help deal with some fertility loss the problem with that is that any synthetic fertilizers that you're adding to your fields all they're doing is feeding the plants themselves they're doing nothing to help out the biological life in the soil and the way that we want to deal with our soils and our crops is we want to make sure that we feed the soil 1st the soil will take care of feeding our crops and then our crops will take care of feeding us so if you remember nothing else from today's presentation I want you to remember that to have an effective cover crop stand you really need 2 types of cover crops you need a lagoon and you need some type of grass and this will take care of the majority of your nutrient needs and yes you can get more much more complicated in your cover crop blends but this is a good place to start off with so for starters I'm going to talk briefly about the soil and then we're going to dive in to cover cropping and their role with the soil so as we all are all probably aware soil has 3 main components it has a physical component it has a biological component and it has a physical component to it so. The biological component. I would say is probably one of the primary areas of the so that we should be focusing on. But it is. I would say equally important to focus also on the chemical and the physical sides of the soil so obviously there are many of us here that are gathering from all over the country and so we all have different soil types some of us have loamy more loamy soil some of us have more clay soils some of these have sand or silt soils and each one of these soils has to be treated just a little bit differently it's not a one stop shop solution it's all based on the type of soil is going to dictate how much how many nutrients it will be able to hold and use and we'll be going into that a little bit later on in the presentation so soil is made up of 30 percent air 30 percent water 45 percent neutral minerals and 5 percent organic matter and I want you to keep those. Definitions if you want to call it that in mind as we go throughout the presentation because it cover crops play a crucial role in making sure that the appropriate amount of air water and minerals get into our soil and then are distributed back to our plants now the n.r.c. yes has. Listed 4 principles for soil health now at the n.r.c. s. is a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture and the 4 principles. Our. Start off with the 1st one would be disturbance we don't want to disturb our soils we want to keep them. As intact and left alone as possible. So basically if you are going to plant your cover crop instead of plowing it disk in order to Lena a better means of incorporating your cover crop seed into the ground would be either to do a no till drill or to broadcast the cover crop on top of the ground preferably on top of a residue from either a former cover crop stand that was covering your fields or the dead residue of a previous cash crop. The 2nd principle of soil health is covered we want to make sure that the soil is covered it's not enough to just leave it alone and not disturb it via tillage but we want to make sure that it's covered with either dead residues cover crops cash crops and there's a number of different reasons why you want to have your soil covered. But some of the one of the reasons that he said I'm going to mention today is that if we have the soil covered it will to a certain degree help to keep the soil cooler or warmer depending on the time of year so if it's July and you're out there. And if it's $9580.00 degrees outside I'm from the south so we get those types of temperatures plus humidity during the summer time it's fairly hot outside for us as humans and it's especially hot for the soil and the soil biology. If you're out there in December January or February and it's 30 some degrees outside it's cold for us it's also cold for the soil and the soil biology so having some type of cover whether it's a living cover of a cover crop or a cash crop or just having the residues or a mat of the cover crop laid down on top of your soils it will help keep the soil biology just a little bit happier. Principle number 3 would be keeping living roots in the soil for as long as possible now the living roots let me rephrase that the roots of crops are taking in the photosynthesis that the leaves of the plants are getting from the from the sun and they're taking that and they're sending it down into their roots and. They are exuding. Change nutrients. For the soil biological system to therefore eat and then render those nutrients in a form that our cover crops or our cash crops will then be able to take up and use. And Principle Number 4 is having biodiversity out on our fields now if we're vegetable farmer it's pretty easy to have biodiversity covering our fields we can have maybe potatoes in one section of the field corn. Asparagus you name it all these different types of crops growing in one field and so we have diversity of crops Well we want to make sure that we have some type of diversity with the cover crops that are growing so 2 to 3 species is a good starting place a good blend to have on your fields and depending on your operation you may also be able to incorporate livestock into your fields that are covered cropped now livestock integration to cover crops this would be for a very short period a period of time it's not like this is another pasture for you to turn the livestock into for the rest of the winter the livestock do a couple of different things for the soil and the cover crop one they eat some of the cover crop obviously they are dropping there you're in there manure on the field which is great because it's feeding the biological life of the soil and as your livestock are walking or running across your field they are trampoline in small pieces of the cover crop directly into the soil and that is helping the soil organisms get some of this cover crop food even faster than having to wait for it to come through the roots All right so why should we use cover crops Well there's a number of different reasons if we use cover crops we can cut our fertiliser costs whether that is some thought it fertilizers or composter menorahs or whatever we would normally be applying to or feel we can sort of reduce those costs over time. They will definitely reduce the need for herbicides if we put down the cover crops to act as a weed barrier. They will improve the yields of future crops over time and I'm going to come back to this in just a moment they'll Peretti Roshan because the ground the soil is covered and when it rains hard and heavy or if there's a strong wind like what we're having today the soil is not exposed to being either blown away by the wind or washed away by the rain and they also help to conserve soil moisture by covering up the soil and not allowing it to evaporated as would happen if the soil was bare. Now I mentioned just a minute ago that they improve yields over time. Chances are if you're soils are slightly depleted and they're needing they're needing help chances are this happened over a speed period of time it didn't happen. Because you did something wrong this last year but potentially it took years to get to this point of degradation in the soil and it's going to take somewhere between 2 and a half to 5 years to be able to rebuild your soils with cover crops and see some long term effects with the cover crops however you will see some immediate. Benefits from using cover crops after the 1st year all right so cover crops are not a one stop what not a one stop shop for everything so what you're going to want to do if you're thinking about putting cover crops into your vegetable rotation or just using them on your farm you'll want to do a couple of things 1st do your research 1st so clarify your primary needs what are you wanting this cover crop to do. Are you wanting it to add organic matter provide nitrogen for a future crop improve your soil structure and poorest city manage your nutrients there's a number of different things that cover crops can help you do so that is the 1st thing that you're going to one do the next thing is figure out when and where can you use cover crops now if you're a vegetable farmer chances are there are multiple periods of time throughout the growing season throughout the year you can incorporate cover crops even if it's just for one to 2 months in between some of your cash crops if your grain farmer cover crops can be used at the same time that you're growing the grains same thing with the vegetables or they can be planted immediately following a grain harvest as soon as you've harvested the grains you plan to cover crop so that when you keep. Some sort of a living organism on top of your soil and then penetrating down into the soil and finally you're going to want to test out a few options. We can read all we want to we can talk to other farmers and find out what their expansions are but until we test out some options on our fields and on our land see what works for us and what doesn't we'll never know so definitely start out small if you want to test out different types of cover crops don't put all 50 acres or 100 acres into a couple different types of cover crops. I would say that's one of the beauties of having our own farms as we're able to play around a little bit and see what works for us and what doesn't work all right so cover crops they help to build the soil organic matter. The benefits of organic matter include increased or improved soil structure the increased infiltration and water holding capacity for those of you who are in Texas or maybe other places where it's a little more arid you definitely want to do everything you can do to hold and maintain the water on your fields you don't want it to infiltrate and then immediately just go down to the ground water and disappear or just sit there and pond on top of your soils you want the soils to be able to infiltrate the water and then hold it for your future crops and organic matter organic matter also helps with the increase of cattle in exchange capacity that is the ability of the soil to act as a short term nutrient storage bank for positively charged nutrients and it also helps with the long term storage of nutrients in your soil to humus. Without again a matter you don't really have soil it's basically just a bunch of weathered and. Ground up rocks that are in your soil so whatever type of cover crop that you plant it is going to leave behind a different type of organic matter as it is decomposed. So your choice of cover crop will largely determine the benefits that your soul receive whether it's in a short period of time or a long period of time and I'll be explaining more what I mean by that in just a few minutes now cover crops. I've got to remember to keep clicking this button. Cover crops help to glue the soil together so basically what I mean by that. Is you have soil microorganisms that are digesting different plant material whether that's residues. Or different things you've incorporated into the soil and they produce compounds in addition to the active and the stable compounds for organic matter now one of these groups kind of a byproduct of the group is known as polysaccharides And these are complex sure that's what's act as glues that hold up the small little almost dust particles of soils to soils together and these are known as aggregates a well aggregated soil is one that's going to have a good area and it's going to allow to good retention and infiltration of water now those 3 things are very important because the biological life of soil is alive just like you and me it needs food it needs air needs water and if you're soils are. If they're compacted or they're platy the amount of air and the amount of water that's going to get to those soil organisms is just not going to be very much and you run the risk of losing some of your biological life stock in the soil now compaction has been shown to decrease the yields of certain types of vegetables or actually all types of vegetables but certain ones it can dish decrease the yields by up to 50 percent and I don't know about you but I definitely don't want to see my yield cut by 50 percent simply because my soil is too compacted and the roots of my crops cannot access the nutrients and get established like they should. So plant materials that are rich and succulents succulent think of like tillage radishes for example they will be releasing nutrients that will be decomposing at a fairly fast rate. And then they're there they're done they're incorporated into the soil they're being used as food by the biological life however if you have. Plant materials that are woody are there more fibers think of like your cereal grains for this type of cover crops like maybe rise or wheat barley for example or clovers they will be releasing nutrients at a much slower rate and sometimes they may even tie up new nutrients temporarily but these cover crops that are more fibrous and release nutrients more slowly they help with the more stable organic matter in the soil and they help with the creation of houmous they also help with better soil physical conditioning and increased nutrient. Holding capacity as well as a higher cattle in exchange capacity and I'll be talking more about that later. Now something to keep in mind here we've been talking about soil organic matter and different ways that we can build it up. Now depending on how you do your tillage is going to have an impact on the build up and the increase of soil organic matter if you're doing a conventional tillage which is basically just going out there until in let's say multiple times in a year to get rid of residues to prepare your fields for your next planting that is going to have a detrimental effect on your soil again a matter I want you to think about soil are going to matter it's the food for the biological life now if you have portions of crop residues maybe there are 6 inches maybe there a foot long and they're laying on top of your soil you come along with your tiller and you till that up and you put it into your soil the active spillage has broken up some of the. Refuse Let's say that was sitting on top of your soil and it's made it easier for the soil organisms to consume it so they're going to be able to eat it faster which is not necessarily a good thing because once they have eaten all the organic matter that's available there's not really anything else for them to eat so what are they going to do they're going to turn around and they're going to start eating the glues that are holding your soil particles together that are helping to provide the structure of the soil. And what happens if your soil doesn't have any structure it's going to blow away it's going to wash away much more easily because there's nothing to help hold it in place. Especially if there's no roots in the soil or coverage of the soil so that's definitely one thing that you want to keep in mind now. You can definitely. Used tillage at certain points of time in your in your farming lifespan shall we say tillage as well as cover cropping and other aspects of farming there are all tools that we have at our disposal to hopefully benefit our soils but it's when we potentially overuse some of these tools that that's when we can start to run into problems and that's one thing that we want to try to avoid if at all possible Now one thing I think I mentioned this a little earlier. But most cover crops are cover crops that you can. So into your fields while your main crop is growing so if you're chilling as a means of preparing the soil for the next crop to grow that may not be necessary depending on your situation are so covered crops I'm going to talk a little bit more now about how they help to glue the soil together. So the soil microorganisms they are digesting the different plant material that is they're coming into contact with and their Nope I try to restart the same page notes. All right so as the slide up on the screen shows the cover crops are able to perform a number of different actions for soil now as you can tell from the slide up on the stream we've got a tillage radish in the soil now this tillage radish is performing a number of different operations it's helping to break up compaction it is taking up nutrients that are in the surrounding soil so they don't leech away and it is also. In the beginning stages I'm going to say of providing extra person each of the soil. So if you move to the center of the slide that's currently up you'll notice that the tillage radish has died it's reached the end of its lifespan it has decomposed and it is releasing those nutrients back into the upper layers of the soil. Now this is important because most of our cash crops do not have deep roots they're going to be limited to the top layers of soil and if our nutrients decrease into the soil into like the sub layer of the soil then our crops are not going to be able to access those nutrients so that's one important factor that cover Cross are able to perform and as you can tell the cash crop has now been planted and those nutrients are readily available to it not to mention that because we have all these holes in this case with the tillage riders the whole is going to be quite large potentially at least at the at the top level of the soil the soil is now able to have greater infiltration of water air and our cash crop is going to be able to send its roots down deeper into the soil. Simply because the Soul has been opened up and it has passageways that its roots can burrow deeper into the soil and thereby have a better Anchorage for its own its own roots now. As we can tell with the slide the cover crop is holding the nutrients in the soil and this is important for another reason there are nutrients in the soil especially nitrate nitrogen in the form of nitrate that can be Leach very quickly from the soil we have a heavy amount of rain and if there's no cover to the soil or if there's just a lot of rain in the soil nitrates are going to be on the move. But one of the ways to prevent nitrate or nutrient loss from our soil is to plant cover crops the reason for this is twofold one the cover crop is going to take up some of those nutrients for it's own needs it's growing it's living it needs it's its vitamins and minerals so we say. In addition to that. The cover crop is going to be using some of the water that's in the soil and it's not going to use it all up but it's going to use some of it up and with that usage of water there is a potential that it will use up enough of it that there won't be enough water left in the soil for nutrient leaching Now one of the best cover crops to use to prevent nutrient leaching is cereal right if you plant it in the fall with enough time for it to get established before winter hits it will grow throughout the winter it'll provide coverage for your soil and then in the coming spring it's really going to explode and grow it's going to send its roots down really deep and the amount of biomass it is going to produce on the top level level of the soil is going to be huge Now one thing I will say as a word of warning if you're going to use rice cereal right as a cover crop is if you've planted in the fall and it grows in the spring it has the potential to get up to at least 6 or 7 feet now that can be problematic in terms of terminations of this cover crop so if you're going to plant right which I mean by all means definitely plants if it fits your fancy. Make sure that you terminate it when it's waist high it's much more manageable at that point in its life than if you let it get above your head and trust me I have to get above my head and it's a fun time to deal with all right so what to do if cover crops are tying up nutrients. Well the 1st thing I would I would ask if someone was asking that question is I would ask how do you know that the cover crops are the ones that are tying up the nutrients What is your base line and what I mean by that is have you done a soil test to see what if any nutrients are there present in the soil because the cover crop is going to need nutrients to grow as well are there any physical thereby visual signs that your cash crop is needing nutrients so these are some of the things that you need to think about as you're working through some of these potential problems that may arise while you're using cover crops so if you've already. Determined that there are nutrients there in the soil you've done your soil test and. You think that the cover crop may be tying up the nutrients One work around that you can do is if you have terminated or cover crop let's say maybe it's done as a green manure or you've rolled and it's just laying there on top of the soil wait a few weeks before you plant your cash crop now this period of time that you're not doing anything with your soil is allowing the cover crop to be decomposed by the soil organisms incorporate it into the soil and thereby it's nutrients are then being released into the soil and then they will be available for your next cash crop so given in a few weeks time period to break down can help alleviate that potential problem. Additionally if maybe you've already planted your cash crop and you notice in this deficiency you can add a supplementals form of fertilizer. In the liquid base to the leaves of the full year application this way your plants will get the nutrients that they need more quickly and it's another work around. We want our soils to look like cottage cheese and using cover crops will help to do that so basically the practice that we want to have happen with our soils is we want the soil to be able to hold the nutrients and then have a continual release of those nutrients so basically what you have is the soil organic matter is feeding the microbial life the microbial life in the soil is feeding our plants. And then the plants are feeding us you're going to hear me repeating this phrase multiple times today what we want to be doing is adding biology to the soil. We want to make sure that we have living roots and that our soil is well aggregated so that our crops can access the nutrients between the my horizon fungus and the other macro organisms in the soil they will help to break down the organic matter and make sure that the nutrients are available for the crops again over time. If you're a student of nature you will by this point probably have noticed that nature never hurries it takes its time it repairs itself it rebuilds it creates. According to how it should be all right so now we're going to be talking about vegetable crops and incorporating cover crops into our eventual crop rotations so once again if you're going to be doing this you want to take a step back and do some research you know figure out what are your primary needs that you're wanting to address by incorporating cover crops into your vegetable rotations and you can see a number of them listed up on the screen. Now if your. Wanting to do like a early summer crop consider an early maturing cash crop that will allow for the timely planting of a cover crop. Just like we want to make sure that we plant our cash crops on time so that it will be able to grow and then produce food when they're supposed to the same thing is true for a cover crops even though we are not going to be harvesting the cover crops for ourselves to gain any food from they need to be able to be allowed to grow and be able to function properly so with the soil gets the care that it needs you definitely don't want your cover crop dying because you planted it too late and winter came along and it got winter killed before it could address any nutrient needs in the soil All right so vegetable systems as I mentioned earlier have multiple windows that you can include cover crops and I don't know about you but I've had many times where I have planted a spring or maybe it's over wintered fall crop brassicas and so they come out early in the summer and I'm just not ready to use that portion of my field just yet you know I want to plant it in maybe squash or okra whatever the case may be and so I just need a little bit of time until it's the appropriate time to plant that crop Well don't leave your field bare in that one section definitely keep it covered otherwise you're going to have seized me you're going to have weeds come up and that just creates more work for all of us and I don't know about you but I don't like dealing with weeds I can avoid it so including a cover crop that will grow in mature quickly and then can be terminated easily and incorporated back into the soil now if we're talking about a warm season which is probably when most of us are growing our our cash crops are vegetable crops you can consider something like buckwheat or cowpies or sorghum Sudan grass. These 3 cover crops they grow quickly and they furnish a number of different benefits to the soil just be aware that sorghum sedan grass can grow tall as well I would consider it to be the summer variation of. Wind of rye So you'll definitely want to terminate it sooner rather than later now the one thing I do want to mention or emphasize I should say is if you're going to be planting a cover crop I should say interceding a cover crop with your cash crop you'll want to make sure that it's a cover crop that can sustain a lot of traffic if you're growing tomatoes or maybe it's peppers or eggplant or something along those lines you don't want to trample your cover crop to death you want to make sure it can sustain some heavier foot traffic from multiple pickings over the season until that crop is done and then once that crop is done you can terminate it and then you will still have a cover crop in place that we don't have to wait and have your soil bare and exposed for a number of days or weeks until your next cover crop is able to become established and cover your soil. Now if you're going to be planting. Cover crops in the fall so that they well over winter you will want to be planting them. Depending on where you are in the country for further north you're going to want to put them in more towards the end of July and then as we come further south across the continental us into August and September. Personally I have planted cover crops as late as the end of October and borderline into Thanksgiving week simply because sometimes in the south we get a lot of rain and I'm not able to get out into my fields and. Spread or drill a cover crop now your cover crops at least in the south I'm from Tennessee they will grow if you plant them that late into the winter just expect that their growth is going to be great the slope so you're going to see a lot more of your field as a bare field or with just a residue cover from your previous cash crop and still your cover crop is able to get established and then begin covering your field so just something to keep in mind they're all right so I'm going to quickly go over these next several slides. One thing I should have mentioned at the beginning is that if you access to the Agra website in the handout section I do have a couple of handouts they handouts will cover most of what is up here on the screen so just something to keep in mind so I'm going to be covering a number of different cover crops that can be used in the spring the summer and then over winter for fall and winter so the 1st one that I'm listing here is Buckwheat the next one to be sorghum Sudan grass these are to cover crops that are relatively inexpensive they're fast growing. And in terms of the sorghum Sudan grass you have high biomass production which can be used as a forage. Harry Vetch I listed it here in the spring summer section because if you are for further north you can use Harry throughout the summer and it won't it won't have adverse effects because of the heat now both of them on the slide here the hairy Vetch and the birds seem clover they are nitrogen producer and you can see the yields of nitrogen and they will return to your soil because of their use Harry Vetch is a good soil builder with the bursting clover it is frost susceptible So you're going to want to make sure that you plant it early enough in the season so that way it'll be able to do its job and the winter won't have any adverse effects to it all right moving on into fall winter covers up oats and cereal right so I've already talked a little bit about cereal rye oats and cereal rye are a fairly cheap cover crop the one thing I will say about oats is that it does winter kill. That means as soon as you have a good heavy frost the oats are done growing they will still be there obviously as a residue and a cover on top of your field so you're going to want to make sure that you plant you plant your oats early enough for them to grow and be able to do their job with the soil again timing is everything almost everything when dealing with with our farms all right tillage radishes these are one of my favorites to grow. For a couple of different reasons one they attract earthworms into my fields and that's that's one type of soil biological life that I definitely want to see more of in my opinion you can't have too many earthworms in any of your fields they bring in a mint immense amount of. Benefit to your fields and thereby your crops Now the other thing that I really like about tillage radishes is they rad the chill a drought is has an ability to get very large and act as a nutrient storage tank for nutrients in your soil especially nitrogen so if you plant. Australian winter peas and tillage radishes together obviously your winter Austrian winter peas they're going to be producing some nitrogen into your soil that you cover crop and if you have a cash crop growing it's going to be absorbing but any extra nitrogen that they produce and it's just there in the field your radishes are going to be taking it up and holding it and then when they decompose they are going to be releasing all those nutrients back into the soil ready for your next crop now one of the no on the day Conrad has is that they will winter kill so you'll want to make sure you plant them with another type of cover that will survive the winter such as a cereal cereal grain. And if you're further far far enough south you can have the Austrian winter peas over winter as well. Is a good nitrogen scavenger as well as a soil builder. All right so if you're in zone 5 or cooler you can plant rye or oats as a summer annual thinking about August being about the time don't be planting them after your cash crops have come out and they are going to be 0 to grow and help to build your Gammick matter as well as do some erosion control alright saw a minute quickly go over these next slide as well these are examples of cover crops used in conjunction for proper preparing the soil for your next cash crops so in this 1st one here I've got winter wheat and a lagoon that have been interceded together use it been planted together and they're growing then you're going to be following this biodiversity with lagoon and then finally potatoes this is if you're in Idaho especially where potatoes are grown a lot this is helping to get the soil ready for your potatoes it's helping to fight soil disease and provide enough nitrogen for the potatoes to grow just to keep in mind that potatoes are a rather shallow rooted crop and so if any nitrogen leeching happens it may be below the level that your potatoes are going to be able to access them so you can do lettuce followed by Back to back plantings of buckwheat then broccoli would be your cash crop followed up by white clover intercede with annual ryegrass Now an interesting fact here with the back to back plant is a buckwheat Yes you can plant Buckwheat terminated and then planted again or this probably the only time I'm going to say this. You can let the buckwheat go to seed for your 1st planting you can incorporate it into the soil and then the seeds from your 1st planting of Buckwheat will then come up and provide you with your 2nd planting of buckwheat So just a tip to keep in mind there so with this this rotation here it's helping to suppress weeds that's the buckwheats job and it's also loosening the topsoil and attracting beneficial insects which is always a plus on any farm then you have your cash crop going on which in this case would be the broccoli and then you have the winter grass slash lagoon cover mix which is holding the soil in place after your cash crop has come out now if you plant the clover at least 40 days. Before frost the white clover should over winter and provide a green manure or a living mulch for the next year again it just depends on where you're located in the country some of our winters like if you're up north and codas they may be too cold for much of anything to survive living on top of your soils so. As a recap so far you want to do your homework you want to think about your current cash crop needs and the nutrients that you're going to want to replace for your following cash crop and what its needs are going to be as well all right so cover crops based on the seasons so when plants when planning for your fall planting of cover crops you should plant them as you would your cash crops I mentioned this just a few minutes ago this is for extra emphasis on it you want to make sure that your cover crops are able to get established and benefit your soil properly. If you plant them too late. They're not going to be able to benefit the soil as much so some of the cash some of the cover crops you can plant in the fall I'm going to give you a personal example here for myself this last fall I put down a multi-species blend of cover crops over the majority of my fields I did tweak it for some fields but the majority of them got peas radish rye turnips and wheat down on my fields Now the reason I did this was for a number of different reasons you know I wanted the biomass and then the weed protection that the rye and the wheat were going to give me this coming spring when I terminate them with a roller crimper the nitrogen is coming from. The peas I've also got the Rye helping to hold any extra nitrogen in the soil I have the compaction breaking abilities of the turnips of the day con radish as well as the Rye Rice. Roots have the ability to penetrate the soil up to 3 feet so I'm able to break up the compaction of my meal to increase the Presidio the soil the aggregation of the soil and just make it a better place not only for my crops but also for the living organisms that are in the soil Now one thing I do want to mention here very quickly is I didn't multi-species blend it for whatever reason you're not able to do that and you just plant a single crop a model crop of a cover crop. It's better than nothing it's better than allowing your soil to stay bare or for weeds to come in and take over. And it will definitely help to improve your soil but where in nature do we find monocultures we don't everything in nature whether you're talking about grasslands or when you're talking about woodlands. There's all a huge diversity of plant and animal life above the soil as well as in the soil so the more biodiversity that we see above the soil that is going to positively impact the biological life as well as the biodiversity inside our soil and that's exactly what we want to see good come right on time. Ok so the next part that I want to talk about is bio fumigation Now who here knows what Bio few mediation is and maybe has done it on their farm Ok a few people are cool so biofuel mediation is a very interesting process at least to me it is and it's one way that we can use nature to do the job that we would maybe sometimes other times have to use a synthetic chemical herbicide or a pesticide for so. What I'm going to be using here as an example for biofuel mediation is going to be mustard so mustard as a cover crop can be grown as part of your vegetable rotation so your previous cash crop or even cover crop comes out and you plant the mustard in its place and most your plants contain a chemical called glucose simulates and when the tissue of the mustard plant is destroyed these compounds are broken up into a variety of chemicals. Including some that form gases with activity against various soil borne pests. So we're able to accomplish a number of different things here by growing mustard as a cover crop. So I'm going to go through some steps here of how to create bio fumigation on your farm so the type of mustard that is generally used for this from saying this right it's a mustard so you're going to want to. After your last crop has come out. You're going to want to put this down at about 10 to 12 pounds to the acre in this is whether you're broadcasting it or whether you're drilling it into your soil with the sea Drill Now if you're following a more conventional means of adding fertilizers to your field it is recommended that you add about $100.00 pounds of nitrogen to the field once the crop has been planted Now the reason for this is the added nitrogen is going to cause a greater biofuel to get potential because your plant is going to be coming larger is going to. Be able to buy a few may get better with a larger plant them with a smaller plant. Also 20 pounds of salt for help for producing the new you needed biofuel make it compounds so once you've planted your seed you've applied your nutrients you can also apply if you don't want to use these synthetic fertilizers you can apply about 4 tons of chicken litter to the acre Now that sounds like a lot but chicken litter while it does have nitrogen in it also has a lot of substances that can help to create. Organic matter in our soil has a lot of organic matter in it and so it will slowly on the say deteriorate over time and be releasing these nutrients and minerals to the soil over time which is exactly what any of our crops will need they don't need a vast amount of nutrients any one point in time. And then that's it we don't add any more nutrients to the field because our bodies don't work that way and neither do any living plants. So once you've once you've planted it your mustard crop is going to grow. You're going to want to. Depending on when you plant it or what we phrase. You're going to want to plant based on when you want to use the bio fumigation potential that it offers so if you're wanting to do it for a summer crop you want going to want to planted early as possible we're talking like mid April possibly even earlier just depends on where you are in the country if you're looking for a fall by a few may get help then you're going to want to put it in late July or the early part of August to be able to grow and have Its have its potential use now mustard will double in height after it begins to flower and it will reach a height of 5 feet so a decent amount of growth there now you are going to want to make sure that you incorporate 2 to 4 weeks after it begins to flower. If I remember correctly. See here yeah mustard will. Flower for about 6 weeks and then it's going to go into seed production you do not want it going into seed production we're talking about tiny little seeds here that will germinate and grow and then they will become a weed for you which is something you did not want. So. Let's say you're at the flowering stage Ok it's time to terminate it so it's recommended that you use a flail mower to terminate all right so your mustard is ready to terminate you go ahead and flail Mo It is recommended that you simply because this is going to be chopping up the mustard plant into some smaller chunks and thereby increasing the amount of tissue that has been broken and thereby the amount of by a few mediation is going to happen by it. So once you know it you're going to want to incorporate it into yours excuse me incorporate it into your soil now it's recommended that you till it into your soil. Instead of plowing it or disc in it and if you plow it it's going to be well below the layer of the soil that is going to be that you're what going to want it to impact for your next crop as it begins to grow. And Diskin it isn't going to incorporate it well enough although if all you have is a disk definitely go ahead use the disk and incorporate it you still will get some benefits so you go ahead and utility in and then it is important that you follow up the process of tillage by watering your field now you can get around watering your field if it is going to rain if it's going to rain than don't bother watering it just let nature take care of to adding the liquid to the soil Now the reason you want to make sure that you add water whether it's rain or irrigation to your field is because the the water coming down on your field is going to be helping to seal the level seal the soil surface and that's what you want so that way you can prevent any of the chemicals from escaping from the mustard and then losing some of your biofuel to get potential. Now you notice what I said the water will be sea helping to seal the soil surface that's exactly what happens after tillage occurs where there's naturally or with your geisha in and that can impact some of our crops growing because the soil has been. Let's call it the beginning of compaction has started on the upper layers of the soil and if your water and air cannot penetrate that layer. Then you could have issues further on with your crops growing as well as the soil biology. Now with the with the stages of incorporation your Moeen your tilling and you watering you're going to want to do this in a very short period of time frame in a very short period of time and you're going to it's recommended that you do it in the morning so just follow these processes up one by one back to back because the. Chemicals that are being released by the mustard they will fall the ties in the heat as well as over time so you want to make sure you get them in the soil as quickly as possible. And and then leave it alone now you're going to want to wait about 10 days before you plant your next crop whether it's cover crop or cash crop after you buy a fumigated if you do it any earlier than that the chemical processes happening in the soil could stunt your next crop that you're planting so do keep that in mind now when you prepare to plant your next crop whatever it may be you want to lightly work the soil don't cultivate it extra heavy just do a light light work up of the soil. So that way it will ventilate any remaining gases that are in the soil and make your soil ready and hospital more hospitable for the crops that you want to grow Ok kadai in exchange capacity. Big word. Well it's relatively simple relatively simple explanation for it at least in my opinion so I had an exchange capacity. Is the positively so you can restart that had an exchange capacity is a measure of the soils ability to hold positively charged ions it's a very important soil property influencing. Soil structure stability nutrient availability soil ph and the reaction to fertilizers and other amendments no I did not draw that line across the slide that's just something that came up. C e c as a shorthand reference to Cat I an exchange capacity refers to how many charged particles can be captured by the soil and exchange for elements by forming temporary bonds or attractions with different nutrients such as nitrogen or potassium in a soul and holding these nutrients in place until the crops need it and this is a very important piece of information here because if our soils are not holding these nutrients then all of our previous work that we did cover cropping or adding compost or menorahs to our fields was almost for nothing. Now as all of us should be doing yearly soil test if not more often than that should list your soil's c.e.c. capacity and you want to follow this information closely when you're applying fertilizers that can cause because too much for lies can cause nutrient leaching and that is definitely something that we want to avoid at all cost because it can pollute the groundwater and it can have harmful effects downstream for both nature and humans all right so to break down what I just said in the previous slide c.e.c. is a measurement of the type of clay in your soil it's a measurement of the amount of clay in your soil and it's the amount of organic matter in your soil so it's a very useful piece of information to have now on the screen here I've got some demonstrations of what you want to do to find out your c.c. capacity now as an example let's say that your c.e.c. capacity for one field you will have a different c.z. capacity for each field that you do a soil test on let's say in this field you have a c.c. of 16 Ok that's great so you take 16 and you times it by 10 well that means that the maximum amount of any type of fertilizer in this case I'm using nitrogen as example. The maximum amount that you should be applying to this field is 160 pounds now according to your soil test your soil test says your 80 have 40 pounds of nitrogen in your soil so you don't need 160 pounds you're going to take that 40 pounds and you're going to subtract it from 160 and that is going to give you 120 pounds tops that you should be adding to your soil and like I said before you shouldn't be applying all a 120 pounds at the beginning of the season or any one period this needs to be. I'm going to say a drawn out process over the season so your plant will be able to absorb and use the nutrients you're applying to the field now maybe you have a low c.e.c. rate and you're going to want to increase it well if you're going to increase your c.c. you need to be increasing your Again ik matter that should be one of your focuses so to increase the organic matter you're going to reduce or eliminate your tillage if at all possible you're going to want to keep the ground covered. One of ways one of the ways to do this is cover cropping as we've been talking about you're going to want to keep living roots into the soil as much as possible should be a refresher from everything I've been saying throughout this presentation and you can be adding or or should be adding compost and minoris Now depending on the size of your field it can be a little more complicated to find enough menorah compost to cover your fields if we're talking about 20 acres 50 acres at a time now one of the one of the ways you can add menorah to your field is chicken litter which at least in my area of Tennessee we have a ton of chicken houses all around us we smell them all the time your neighbors will be appreciative of the new Roma wafting through your section of the country if you apply chicken litter. To your fields but that's one way that you can access a large amount of the nor and spread it on your fields now let's say that you have a high c.e.c. now just because you have a high c e c I mean it's good in some ways but it can be detrimental in other ways. Now if you have a high c.c. rate what you're going to want to do is you're going to want to increase the soil Prissie you want to increase the amount of passageways in your soil that air water and nutrients can flow through you're going to want to increase the calcium in your soil you can do that by adding a line to your fields and according with your soil test there should be recommendations for how many pounds or tonnes of lime you should be adding to your fields so you're definitely going to want to follow your soil test recommendations very closely covered crops can help to break up the compaction that is happening in your soil and 2 of the ones that I have used in the past as I've mentioned before are radishes or I've also used cereal grains with the ability to have a massive root capacity down in the soil to open the soil up and break up compaction right terminating our cover crops so we've done all this work of. Planting growing the cover crops and now we need to terminate them so we can go to the next stage of their benefit and their usefulness for our crops so there are a number of different ways to terminate cover crops and I have some of them illustrated on the screen on the screens behind me in photographs so one we can do a chemical burn down we can mow it as we can see here we can incorporate it into the soil via tillage or Diskin and we can. Roll or crimp it now these are some of the illustrations are up on the screen if you planted your cover Crapo ever to act as a green manure in this case you're going to want to till it in before the cover crop reaches one foot in height. You want to make sure that it's easy enough to terminate and then incorporate into your soil so that we don't have just large chunks of the cover crop just sitting there but tentatively causing you issues later on if you try to work your soil and get your crops into the ground. Now some farmers that still used to live conventionally they will plan to cover crop and let it reach maturity and then they will either flail mow it or bush hog it and then till the residues of those covered crops into the soils Now if you're wanting to go. No till it's a more Someone call it a more organic natural approach to terminate and covers. Yes you can use a nonselective herbicide to kill the crop and then roll or crimp it or sticking with the organic side of things you can just simply roll or crimp it now the largest picture up on the screen is an image of roller crimping So for those of you who may not be familiar with roller crimping what it is is you can see that in front of the tractor you have what looks to be a large round metal drum and there are a curved drawing a blank on the name. I'm going to say curved metal bars for lack of a better term a nation here that are attached to the metal drum now in this case the tractor is pushing the roller camper in front of it and what it is doing is it is it is laying down the cover crop and using it as a mat on top of your soil now this is beneficial because you're keeping your soil covered and you also have roots in the soil in this case they are not living roots but they are still roots and they are providing a form of nutrients to your soil biology. Now how come after the tractor rolls over this field how come the cover crop isn't just standing back up on its own over a period of time the reason is those blades that you see attached to that roller crimp are these blades are blunted they are not cutting the cover crop by any means but they are breaking the stems of the cover crop now the stems are how they cover crop gains as nutrients as water how it lives if you break that you are effectively terminating that covered crop it is not going to survive that is going to die. And so once you have once you have rolled it down in this case the farmer may be following it up immediately in one pass roll or crimping and then following it up with a no till planter or drill planting his next crop in the field so it's a way that you can minimize the amount of time you having to spend outside in your fields. The one thing I would say is you would have to have a large enough tractor that is able to handle the weight of a roller crimper and be able to have it attached to the front of the tractor and still be able to pull a no till drill or seed. Planter behind the tractor now it is true that you don't have to roll or crimp if you've terminated with an herbicide you can just plant directly into the crop residue as it standing However if you do that you could run into some problems such as you have the residues of the crop still standing upright and this could block air flow for your next cash crop as it is beginning life so laying down terminating the cover crop is one of the better ways of doing this. Roller crimping pretty much only works with tall crops such as cereal grains it will not work for short cover crops such as Clover. And obviously the it depends with the efficiency the efficiency of the terminations using a roller crimper will depend on you know the amounts the density of the cover crop that has been growing in your field so if you have a lighter standard cover crop for whatever reason it's still going to do an excellent job of crimping it and laying it down but if you're doing it for a weed suppression. It may not work as well because the weeds will still be able to come through your mat relatively quickly if you have a good stand as can be seen in the photograph on the screen. At least in the south if you roll a crimp in the spring and your plants let's say corn or soybeans. In your field it'll probably be roughly around late July or August before you start to see the 1st weeds beginning to poke through the degrading mat that you have on your soil and so it can act as a very good weeds present there and if you only have a few weeds coming up they are easy to terminate. Ok So that is all I had for you for today one thing that I did want a couple things I did want to mention if you're wanting to learn more about cover cropping and you maybe want to watch some a presenter is online or read some books one book that I found extremely helpful for myself when I 1st started incorporating cover crops into my rotations and into my farm was managing cover crop profitability and this is put out by say or you can either purchase a hard copy online via their website or they have a free p.d.f. version of the book you can download and then print off if you want to or just look at it on your i Pad or computer so again that the title of that book was managing cover crop profitability. Now if you're more visual such as myself or maybe you're spending a lot of time in the car driving home. I wouldn't recommend watching these but you can listen to them if you go on to youtube to people that I really respect as far as their ability to explain cover cropping and farming one would be Gabe Brown he's a farmer rancher in North Dakota has done extensive work with cover crops and also incorporating livestock chickens and cattle into his cover crop stands so again that was Gabe Brown he has a number of different lectures on You Tube the other person is Ray arch Aletta. Ray is a soil scientists a soil health expert he used to be with the n.r.c. s the National Resource Conservation Service which is a branch of the u.s.d.a. and he has a lot of really good information not just on cover cropping but also on soil health in general so if you want to learn a lot of information those are 2 people that I would highly recommend that you either read their publications or watch their their videos also the n.r.c. s has multiple fact sheets online on their websites that you can download or read online and almost every county in the u.s. will have a local and r.c.s. office now I can tell you from experience that the people that work with the n r c s are more than happy to help anybody on their farms whether it's with soil health or a new. Nutrient management plan or anything that you might need help with dealing with a natural resource conservation on your farm they're more than eager to leave the office and come out and do a field trip on your farm so with that that's all ahead so are there any questions. Oh and one thing I will say if you do have questions. There is a microphone set up over here on my right hand side please state your questions into the microphone so they can be recorded for audio verse. Thank you so much. Safer for. Sharing with us about some of the cropping and while you were at Southern I was there a while when you were there. Did you use cover cropping before you began to cultivate. When you were growing up on because it's pretty. Cloyd there's a lot of clay down there and oh yeah. Yes So basically when I when I 1st took over the farm and Southern some of the land I had been cover cropped and had had other him a stone to it however when we were given an additional 5 acres we were talking about some very raw land full of clay full of rocks. That had not been worked in years so in that case yes one of the 1st things I did was apply a cover crop. Probably. Let me rephrase this yeah basically do the soil test 1st and had your cover crops if it's any type of new land. Because you want to know what you're dealing with 1st before you start adding any type of amendments or whatnot but yes that's that's what I did with that title and. I grew garlic up in Minnesota where really after harvest and mid July I got maybe 2 and a half months or something before and planting again I'd like to plant some kind of crops what would be good to plant for that and where would I get the seat. Ok. All right so for the. One part of your question I dealing with you know you're in Minnesota you've just hard harvested your garlic crop and you have a couple months. I would talk to somebody local like your local in our c s office about which cover crops would be best for planting at that time period my recommendation would be probably garlic is a heavy feeder so I would try going with a probably like a cover crop blend of like some type of cereal grain as well as possibly some peas or de Conrad issues to help. Work up your soil as well as hold any nutrients that may be left over from the garlic as well as restoring some nitrogen to your soil as well as other cover across other nutrients Now the other part of your question about getting seat thanks for bringing that up I had mentioned that before in my talk so. You can get see it from a variety of different places one of the places that I get seed from is the local co-op they will usually have a pretty good selection for your area and the benefit to that is if you're farming on a large scale. You're going to need a lot of cover crops covered crops usually come in $25.00 to $50.00 pound bags especially when you're farming the scale you don't want to pay shipping on those bags believe me it eats you alive so finding a local source. So the co-op is generally the place I would start off with 1st although you may have some other feed stores in the area or if you're any more farming community sort of maybe in the Midwest or or other places you may have other stores in the area that are dedicated seed dealers for cover crops. I enjoy your presentation an excellent i disappoint some land. I don't want to till So how would I incorporate a couple clubs. Ok so let me ask you a follow up question to that do you have you already planted the cover crops. Ok so it's just raw land. Ok. Ok so if you if you just have raw land. You've got 2 options one would be going to non-organic route and doing a chemical burn down using a nonselective herbicide to kill anything that is growing on the field that you're going to plant and then planting your cover crop into that that's probably the best way to avoid tillage Now if you're wanting to go more organic route I know there are some. Herbicides that are organic I am drawing a blank on their names right now that can be used with varying degrees of success generally speaking for organic producers or people that are one just a more organic silage would probably have to be done at least for your 1st planting of the cover crop so if you do it let's say in the in the summertime or or spring time till your field get the cover crop if it's a fast growing cover crop get it in the ground and then from there on you can avoid tillage but you just have to keep a very close eye on your cover crop make sure you terminate it correctly make sure your seeding rate is correct. And then theoretically if everything goes well you should be able to plant your cover crop allow it to grow terminate it maybe with a roller crimp or. In the direct seed your next cover crops or cash crop into the soil and didn't just after let's say it's a cash crop you should have enough residues from that cash crop. After you know it down to then immediately come back behind there and plant your next round of of covers after that. All right let's just go ahead and buy our heads. Dear God thank You that you've brought us all here to add agro to learn about nature and farming and how we can better apply. Good principles to our farms and and everything related to our farms and I want to ask will be with each person here as we continue to go about her day go listen to different speakers and absorb more information and thank you for the good weather. This media was brought to you by audio for years a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio 1st if you would like to listen to more servant leader visit w w w audio purse or.

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