Drought recovery was the theme of seminar presentations Tuesday as the Indiana/Illinois Farm Equipment Show opened at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The intense stresses on crops showed the weak points in crop rotations and the risky points in farm fields. And Hans Kok from the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative said the drought demonstrated what cover crops can and can’t do.
“We were very worried early on that the cover crops would be detrimental to the corn crop when it was running out of water,” he told HAT. “However we found a lot of cases where it actually helped and the yields were higher, especially if you had more than one year of cover crops. But we even found farmer fields where we had a cover crop for the very first time, planted in the fall of 2011 that the corn crop actually did better under our very high heat and drought conditions we had in 2012.”
Kok says they think the assist from cover crops has a lot to do with the rooting systems.
“What cover crops do for us, especially things like cereal rye, annual ryegrass, and radishes, they have deep rooting systems that go deep into the soil and basically open up soil that was not available for crops before. We know that from work in Illinois for instance, where annual ryegrass has been able to bust through fragipans, really hard calcareous layers in the soil that normally corn and soybeans cannot get to. But after a couple of years of annual ryegrass we found that they can now go through those layers. So I suspect that in a lot of fields, especially the fields that had cover crops for the very first time this year, that it had to do with the rooting depth and that the corn roots could actually go deeper and access water they had not been able to access before.”
Because of the drought there was a lot of nitrogen left in fields since the corn didn’t take it out. And Kok says coming off of a drought year cover crops will help retain that soil nitrogen, helping next year’s corn crop.[audio:https://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2012/12/2012-good-year-for-learning-about-cover-crops.mp3|titles=2012 good year for learning about cover crops]
In the full HAT interview he explains the sharp growth of cover crops on farmland and that the best place to get cover crop seed is your local, trusted seed source.[audio:https://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2012/12/Hans-Kok-2012-Seminar.mp3|titles=Hans Kok 2012 Seminar]