Monday, April 29, 2013

Cover Crop Field Day in Allen County

by Cassandra Vondran
Cassandra is an Indiana State Department of Agriculture Resource Specialist for the Division of Soil Conservation in Allen and DeKalb Counties covering the Western Lake Erie Basin and has been with the Division for nearly 18 years.

Many benefits are associated with cover crops:  erosion control, increased microbial activity, increased nutrient cycling, increased organic matter, increased infiltration, and increased crop yields. To educate area farmers, a cover crop field day was held on April 10th at Ron Miller’s farm north of Woodburn, IN.  The field day was sponsored by the Allen County SWCD as a part of an Indiana Department of Environmental Management 319 grant for the Upper Maumee River Watershed Project. 

Scott Haley and Derek Thompson showing soil health demonstrations

Scot Haley, NRCS Area Soil Scientist, and Derek Thompson, DeKalb County NRCS District Conservationist, kicked off the field day by showing soil demonstrations.  Mike Werling, a farmer and a contract employee through the St. Mary’s Watershed Initiative, provided additional comments.  The demonstrations showed the benefits of utilizing cover crops. Producers then were able to look at soil pits in fields that had cover crops.  

Attendees look on as Scott Haley describes cover crop roots in a soil pit

Soil pits were dug about three to four feet deep to allow producers the chance to see the below ground earthworm activity and the roots of the cover crops.  One field was seeded with cereal rye and the other field was seeded with oilseed radish and oats in the fall of 2012.  Mr. Miller received cost share assistance to try cover crops for one year.

Ron Miller and his son look at the roots of a dead oilseed radish plant

The takeaway message for the event was for farmers to understand the basic mechanics of cover crops and adopt them into their own management system.  Events such as this cover crop field day are giving farmers this basic information.  More cover crop field days are being planned for the future in Allen and DeKalb counties.   

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