Published Jun 2, 2011

June 1 West Chester Cover Crop Field Day

By Sarah Carlson

Rob Stout hosted a field day about cover crops on his farm near West Chester in SE IA. Farmers, ISU extension, ISU researchers, Iowa Learning Farm Conservation Station, IDALS and NRCS all attended the field day to learn more about adding cover crops to a corn and soybean system. Rob flew on winter rye last fall into standing corn around September 17th, 2010. The pilot flew on 3 strips with cover crops at about 90lbs/A. He left 3 strips empty where the no cover treatments will be measured. This is the second year Rob is participating in this 5-yr study along with 10 other farmers from around Iowa. To read more about the results of the first 2 years of the study click here: Cover Crop Effect on Cash Crop Yield.

Rob killed the cover crop this spring around mid-May using 32oz. of glyphosate. He then no-till planted soybeans about 2 weeks ago. The soybeans were just popping through the brown, dead, rye biomass that covered the strips in the field. The soybeans that were planted on the no cover strips did look taller. From the last 2 years of data in the study, a winter cover crop has had no effect on soybean yield and in 2010 increased the yield by 4 bu/A. ┬áRob says: “Soybeans seem to be forgiving.”

Rob also talked about his local watershed organization where he and about 20 other farmers are committed to improving their farming practices to improve water quality and as Rob says “keep the fertilizers and nutrients on our fields and out of the water.”

Rob’s neighbor George Schaefer, who is also part of the 5 year study and is in his 2nd year. George is on the opposite rotation and has corn planted into the dead winter rye this spring. George also aerial seeded his cover crops last fall on the same date as Rob but killed his cover crop in April and then planted corn about a week later. George reported that a couple days before Memorial Day this year he noticed that armyworms had begun to eat the corn in his rye cover crop strips. Where there was no rye the armyworms hadn’t touched the corn plants. Once George noticed this he immediately called his local coop who had also chemically killed his cover crop to come out and spray an insecticide to kill the armyworms. Although a great deal of damage was done by the armyworms now a week later the corn in the rye cover crop strips look healthy and are growing again. This field is located near a forested area and George thinks that is where the armyworms might have come from. On another field, George has corn planted following a winter rye cover crop that he killed at the same time as the field in the study and there was no presence of armyworm. John Sawyer from ISU has also seen presence of army and cutworms in fields where a winter rye cover crop was planted and in Managing Cover Crops Profitably there is a short paragraph about insect infestations that might occur in a rye cover crop.

****That said anyone who can observe their corn for the next month please share any information if you see any damage from insects.

Another area farmer spoke about how he bales the rye and feeds it to his cattle before planting his corn or soybeans. He says “the cattle love it although it is mostly just for added fiber in the diet.”

The field day ended with presentations and informal discussion between the audience and ISU researchers John Sawyer, Tom Kaspar and Mark Hanna. I also presented about PFI’s Cooperators Program and the many cover crop and other studies farmers in the organization are conducting in 2011.