Deal with the biology of the soil – as a substitute of the chemistry of farming – and discover probably the most environment friendly tools for seeding cowl crops. That is recommendation Jasper County farmer Will Cannon offers to Iowa corn and soybean producers struggling to determine cowl crops on their farms.
Cannon, who grows largely corn and soybeans on about 1,400 acres along with his spouse, Cassie, has been farming full time since 2013. Earlier than that, he labored a full-time agribusiness job in Ames, Iowa and farmed half time for about 15 years.
Cannon says he has realized that you may’t handle two years the identical manner. “Many farmers are more familiar with applying ‘X’ amount of chemicals and expecting ‘Y’ result,” he says.
Variables corresponding to climate, soil sorts, tools and out there assistance on the farm influence efficiently rising and terminating cowl crops, Cannon says. “You have to focus on soil conditions. This is about biology.”
LATE TERMINATION: Soybeans develop in dwelling cereal rye in mid-June. Will Cannon ran out of chemical spray to terminate this strip of cereal rye, so he left it there as an experiment to investigate soybean progress with a dwelling cowl crop. Cannon plans to terminate the rye when he sprays the sector for weeds.
Cannon is a well-respected particular person in conservation circles. The truth is, he farms land for Barb Stewart, former USDA-Pure Assets Conservation Service (NRCS) state agronomist, and Gordon Wassenaar, a Grasp Farmer and Jasper Soil and Water Conservation District commissioner. Cannon says he at present has 15 landlords.
The cowl crop planting course of has advanced over that final decade. “When I first started using cover crops, I exchanged ideas with Barb and Gordon,” Cannon says.
With Stewart, he says there was quite a lot of brainstorming, creativity and considering outdoors the field. “There were three years where we experimented with cover crops on Barb’s farm, and it was hit and miss,” he says. “We started by aerially seeding turnips and cereal rye.”
Will has farmed Stewart’s land since 2008. “We brought him on as a beginning farmer and have been crop sharing 50-50 ever since,” Stewart says. “One of many stipulations within the lease is it must be no-tilled or strip tilled and canopy cropped.
“Will has been very good at looking at new ideas and figuring out how to make it work in his system. We have experimented with various types of cover crops, as well as different methods of planting cover crops and cash crops into cover crops. We are pleased with the working relationship we have had over the years,” she says.
Evolution of a canopy crop seeder
With Wassenaar, they constructed new tools to seek out the simplest, most effective technique to plant cereal rye as quickly as doable after harvest. “We started by rebuilding a minimum-till drill that could be used to drill into soybean residue,” Cannon mentioned. “We used heavier springs on it, but were asking it to do things it wasn’t really designed for. It was super-cheap to build, though, and helped us prove our method before bigger investments.”
After three or 4 years, he started utilizing a vertical tillage instrument on the cornstalks and employed a co-op to broadcast the seed with fertilizer. “Then, we added an air seeder to the vertical till,” Cannon says. “Our goal was to seed cover crops within 24 hours of the combine, and the retailer just couldn’t reliably do that for us.”
HOMEMADE SYSTEM: Iowa farmer Will Cannon reveals Iowa NRCS soil well being specialist Hillary Olson the implement he makes use of to seed cowl crops within the fall. Cannon constructed the system himself, which permits him to be extra environment friendly throughout the busy harvest season.
Cannon says his most up-to-date cowl crop success is because of just a little ingenuity. After some years of utilizing the vertical tillage instrument that Cannon says burned $3,000 of diesel gas to placed on a canopy crop, he constructed a quicker, more practical instrument. He bought a 40-foot rolling harrow soil conditioner with two units of rolling baskets which have serrated edges. He retrofitted the harrow with a Hiniker air seeder field initially used to plant soybeans, and mounted that on the tongue, with air strains operating out.
The 40-foot harrow strains up with their planter-strip-till machine to allow them to use the identical steering strains. The air strains distribute cowl crop seed between the corn rows. In soybean stubble, he follows the steering line and crops the duvet crop right into a 15-inch band between future corn rows. In cornstalks, the harrow broadcasts seed throughout the complete width. The harrow additionally helps incorporate the seed beneath the corn residue, and smash the remaining cornstalk and root ball with nearly no tillage.
“Now we have a tool that we can run across every acre, without the tillage before it,” Cannon says. “This seeder is faster, less expensive to run, uses much less horsepower, and goes through corn and bean stubble much easier. If you’re going to plant cover crops, you have to do it right.”
Cannon says there are firms on the market now which have developed the same one-pass cowl crop seeder choice for a rolling harrow.
Cowl crop advantages
Cowl crops might not produce fast monetary advantages, Cassie Cannon says: “It takes a while to build up that organic matter in the soil.”
Will Cannon says the obvious soil enhancements are within the eroded areas. “Since using cover crops, we’ve noticed a change in color on some of the eroded side hills,” he says, “but the biggest change is that my bad spots are shrinking more every year.”
He is additionally seen that his crops are much less harassed throughout dry circumstances, in comparison with fields which were tilled. “We also use less nitrogen – typically 0.6 or 0.7 units per bushel – compared to [the] 1 or 2 that a lot of farmers use,” Cannon says.
Harvest nonetheless hectic
The Cannons admit the autumn harvest season continues to be hectic, attempting to plant cowl crops on all 1,400 acres in about 15 completely different areas throughout the county. They rent seasonal assist to plant the duvet crops for a number of hours every night after harvest.
“It gets stressful to get it all done in the fall, but the long-term benefit is worth it, because we’re preserving ground for our kids,” Cassie Cannon says. “You have to keep that in mind during the hard times, because it’s not easy.”
The means of seeding cowl crops is not the one factor that has modified up to now 10 years. Cannon says he felt like he was on his personal to start with, attempting to determine the way to finest plant, set up and terminate cowl crops. “Now, there is more of a community out there,” he says. “And there is more information out there.”
Cannon says he feels he is thought of younger within the farm trade. “We haven’t been reached out to a lot by many [statewide], but we are sharing our knowledge and experiences through field days, news segments and social media,” he says, “so we feel like we are reaching others in our area more and more as the years pass.”
For producers who’re simply attempting cowl crops for the primary time, Cannon’s suggestion is to plant cereal rye earlier than soybeans. “It’s simple, the beans are forgiving and cereal rye is easier to manage,” he explains. “We’ve put cereal rye on as late as December, and in the spring it’s there and growing.”
What’s subsequent for Cannon?
Cannon not too long ago experimented with letting cereal rye head out and planting soybeans into the inexperienced, rising rye. He allowed the beans to develop with the rye for some time, after which terminated the rye in late Might or mid-June.
“Yield results on that experiment have been good or better yields on my better soils, and similar or lower yields on my poor soils,” he says.
Finally, Cannon says he want to lengthen the crop rotation on a few of his acres to a 3rd, fourth and fifth crop. His brother is constructing a cattle herd, so Will is including some annual forages to the crop rotation on some acres.
For extra details about conservation planning and applications to your farm, go to your native NRCS workplace, or go to ia.nrcs.usda.gov.
Johnson is the state public affairs specialist for USDA Pure Assets Conservation Service in Des Moines, Iowa.