Mercer County SWCD Receives 2 Cover Crop Research Plot Grants

In the photo, Steve and Joe Staker are planting a cover crop research plot in which they are studying the effects of different populations of Cereal Rye.  One of the obstacles for the wide use of cover crops is the additional cost for seed and labor which has to be paid for with the accompanying cash grain crop.  In this study we are looking at "how low can you go" with seeding rates and still have a positive effect on the field.  In this study there are 4 seeding rates on 30' wide strips.  106, 75, 50 and 30 pounds per acre.  The recommended rates for cereal rye run from 60-90 pounds per acre when incorporated into the soil.  When surface applied that rate increases to 90-120 pounds per acre.  During the 3 year study the Soil and Water Conservation District will assist with collecting data on the replicated plot.  Seed stands, weed populations, soil compaction ratings, soil erosion estimates and crop yield will be measured to determine the effect of the varied planting rates.  Information will be published along with a field day each year in which the public is invited to visit the plot.  Pictured is the 30' drill which the Staker family recently purchased for the seeding of cover crops.  They are also custom seeding cover crops for other farmers around the county. 

Along with the Staker plot a 2nd plot has been seeded at the Don and Dave Damos farm in North Henderson Township.  This plot is focused on measuring the effects of cover crops in reducing soil compaction.  This year the field has been planted to cereal rye with the intensions to plant plots of cereal rye and oil seed radish in year 2 and 3 of the study.  This plot will be monitored by the SWCD along with a field day.  Don, Dave and their uncle John Tornquist have invested in a seed corn De-tasseler in which they plan to modify the machine for the purpose of seeding cover crops in standing corn late in the growing season.  This practice has been used around Illinois in which producers can get an early start on planting cover crops which opens the door to using several other types of cover crop plant material providing many different benefits to producers.