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First Mid Ag Services News

Michael Bernhard discusses prevent plant

November 5, 2019

                 2019 had one of the wettest springs on record with the worst delays for planting since records started being kept in Illinois. Farmers who have been farming for several decades have never before experienced a spring like this past one. Due to the wet weather, hundreds of thousands of acres were unplanted, with Kankakee county being one of the hardest hit areas with over 56,000 acres of prevent plant corn and soybeans. Our managers in the Kankakee office knew something had to be done to control erosion, weeds, and nutrient loss. Our solution was the use of cover crops. So far, the results have been excellent.Picture of field

                A local cover crop dealer hosted a webinar at the end of May to address the disaster unfolding across Illinois. He provided many good mixes of cover crops to use in various situations. Some mixes such as sorghum sudangrass along with cereal rye where for producers who needed cattle feed. Other mixes such as oats and radishes were better for acres devoted to grain production. The recommendation was to seed cover crops starting August 1st. The first farm that was seeded was 80 acres that had DAP and Potash fertilizer spread in the spring. The main purpose to seed this field was to capture the nutrients and hold them in place for the next crop year. The second objective was to reduce erosion potential and the third reason was to limit weed growth.

                The field was worked with a field cultivator to remove any weeds and to create a seedbed. The cover crop mix for this field was 90% oats and 10% radish mix. An airseeder was used and provided uniform placement of the seed with good seed/soil contact. The farm received timely rains and the cover crop grew into a uniform stand. Weed control has been good so far and we are watching the radishes to see if they can break up soil compaction.

                Picture of radishWith a number of prevent plant corn fields this year, we had an opportunity to plant and test cover crops, to see if or how much, they can improve the health of the clay soil farms. Research has shown that over the course of several years, cover crops can build up soil organic matter, improve soil structure and reduce compaction. Organic matter is important because it releases nitrogen and the higher the organic matter, the more nitrogen is released which reduces fertilizer costs. Soil structure allows for better water infiltration and the ability for roots to access nutrients. Soil compaction limits the crop roots from accessing nutrients, restricts water infiltration, and lowers yields.

               While this was one year we never want to repeat, it allowed us to experiment with cover crops and see how they perform. More on-farm trials need to be conducted to see the long term effects but this could really be a game changer for our clay soil farms and allow us to improve yields.  

For more information contact Michael Bernhard at 815-936-8978 or mbernhard@firstmid.com.