Friday, June 12, 2015

Fall/Winter Cover Crop and Tillage Transect in Scott County

By Laura Fribley

In late 2014, Indiana conservation agencies conducted a cover crop and tillage transect.  This was the first time the survey was conducted statewide during this timeframe. Data collected will help track trends in conservation tillage, energy consumption, and cover crop information on the county, watershed, and statewide level.  Cover crops were a key focus of the data collection.  Due to the nature of winter kill, decomposition, early spring planting, tillage, etc., it is easier to accurately capture this information in the late fall or early winter versus the spring.

Picture: Ed Roll grabs a handful of cereal rye that was drilled in as a cover crop.  This is the fourteenth time Ed has helped conduct the tillage transect survey in Scott County. 

The tillage transect follows a set, pre-determined route in each county.  Local personnel drive this route and note information about each field marked in the survey.  Scott County’s 2014 team included Kevin Baird (ISDA Resource Specialist), Kari Harrison (Scott County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) District Coordinator), Jennifer Kipper (Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist), and Ed Roll (Earth Team Volunteer).

Picture: the Scott County survey team pauses to look at a field planted in cover crops.  It felt like walking on a sponge, which is common in no-till fields not hardened by compaction.

Dan Smith, a board member of the SWCD, has been planting cover crops for three years.  “Cover crops improve the soil and erosion.  Cereal rye has a root system like you wouldn’t believe,” he says.  “My dad used to plant red clover, and this was 50 – 60 years ago.  He knew what he was doing.  When you see positive results, you pay attention.  I’ve been no-tilling since 1992.  It’s part of a management thing- they go hand in hand.” Some of Dan’s fields are captured in the tillage transect.

Picture: a close up view of cereal rye planted after soybeans.  Cereal rye can be seeded later in fall than other cover crops and still provide significant reduction of nitrate leaching and exceptional weed suppression.

In early summer 2015, teams statewide will visit these same points again and collect data, including a team in Scott County.  The transect surveys have been collected since 1990.
Find more statewide information about the cover crop and tillage transect at:

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