(GRAND ISLAND, NE) – Is your soil as healthy as it could be? That’s a question that farmers have asked themselves for decades. In the past, the answer would be to apply more fertilizer on crops to get the best yield possible. More recently, new practices focus more on determining what is happening under the ground to produce better yields.
The Central Platte Natural Resources District (NRD) has had success advancing soil health in demonstration plots by protecting soil with cover or residue, also known as soil armor with cover crops. Cover crops are plants that are grown in the period between harvested crops within a rotation.
Cover crops are successful because they create soil armor through a residue mulch layer that reduces or even eliminates soil erosion and weeds, decreases soil temperature and evaporative water loss, allows water to infiltrate improving drought tolerance, and increases soil organic matter. They also produce above ground biomass that is beneficial for livestock grazing, wildlife attraction, and pollinator and beneficial insects.
Many planting procedures have been tried in Nebraska as well as nationwide with establishment in commercial corn being one of the most challenging. Demonstration plots were established to evaluate the successes of different cocktail mixes at a V6 stage of growth (knee high) in commercial corn. This option broadens the window for establishment and growth.
To show the benefits that cover crops have on soil health, the Central Platte NRD and UNL Extension are hosting a V6 Field Day from 1:30-3:30 on March 21, 2018, at a demonstration plot on 4th Avenue and Arthur Road near St. Libory, NE. The public is invited to attend the V6 Field Day. Event speakers will be Dean Krull, USDA/CPNRD; Aaron Hird, State Soil Health Specialist; Teri Edeal, Conservationist Agronomist; and Keith Burns, Green Cover Seed.
Attendees will see a plot where these different cover crops were interseeded into corn at the V6 corn growth stage. The pros and cons of dormant seeding procedure, which is planting late for the cover crop to emerge the following spring, will also be addressed. If inclement weather arises, the field day will be moved to the shop of Ken Seim at 1324 6th Rd Chapman, NE.
The goal of interseeding is to have the cover crop present after corn harvest to provide soil surface cover and a food source for various animals (e.g. livestock and pheasants). Attendees will see what was planted, what species emerged, and what survived the winter. Project sponsors will discuss if and how interseeding at the V6 growth stage provides a suitable environment for cover crop establishment and growth. They’ll also discuss whether the cover crop suppressed late-emerging broadleaf and grass weeds and how it affected corn yield.