COVER CROP PLOT UPDATE


TODAY WAS A GOOD DAY TO SNAP A COUPLE OF PHOTOS OF OUR COVER CROP TEST PLOTS HERE AT THE OFFICE. We planted some real challenge plots. we had a couple of purposes in mind. One was to try to demonstrate our Multi species Cover Crops right here nearby. The second was to explore the fertility challenge.

We knew the ground we had available had not had any lime or fertilizer in years…it is simply a grass lot that is sometimes used for parking and it is mown regularly….

We marked off a 100 foot by 100 foot plot and did nothing but drill in the multispecies cover crop mix into the existing sod. Then out on one end we tilled a strip 10 feet wide by 100 feet long and planted several species in individual plots and we very lightly fertilied half of each of those plots and did nothing to the other half.

The photos below show the plots.

The first is a mixed brassica plot. mixture of kales and mustard and spinalch and turnip….the fertilized side is on the left.

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this is a view of the MSCC plot and the rows are just now beginning to be visible….my similar plot at home is over two feet tall and it only has natrual fertility from the rotationally grazed pastures.
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Crimson Clover….left is fertilized right is not…
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Oats….back has been fertilized and the front has not.
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Barley…back was fertilized and not only has a better stand but has begun to head and the front struggles to survive.
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Rye…again the rear had some fertilizer and the thin and spinldy front stand had none.
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A view across all plots with the right having been fertilized and the left side none.
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wheat and crimson clover….the difference is more apparent in the previous photo but there is a real difference.
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wheat and lana vetch…the vetch in this plot frost killed but the rear of the plot was fertilized and the front was not.
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Wheat….the foreground no fertilizer and the background was fertilized.
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This is a good view from the western end of the strip. The difference is clearly visible on all the plots no matter the crop. We feel that even a nitrogne scavenging cover crop needs some basic fertility to get off to a good start and do its job well. While we have not yet decided what we will plant on this strip for the summer I have already broadcast it with a mix of clovers and they are beginning to be apparent on close inspection…we will probably plant some no till vegetables in rows in this plot. Then another cover crop in the fall.
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comment on my blog by Chris Lawrence…..NRCS Agronomist and I agree totally…

“I think it is worth emphasizing that a soil test can help you target what fertilizer elements are lacking. My recommendation is that P, K, lime need to be right for a legume to grow. But if they are in place, then a properly inoculated cover with adequate legume should not need N. Whether the N scavenging or non legume needs N depends on the N status of the soil (ie., preceding crop and N management) and the growers objective. Bottom line – I think the right answer on fertilizer for cover crops is “it depends”…”

Chris Lawrence, Cropland Agronomist
USDA-NRCS, Virginia
1606 Santa Rosa Road, Suite 209
Richmond, VA 23229
Office phone: (804) 287-1680
Cell phone: (804) 356-0610
chris.lawrence@va.usda.gov

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