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Project Objectives

Objective 1 - Improving cover crops management and establishment. Modification of seeding equipment, decision tool development and estimation of N credits to optimize cover crops establishment and management

  1. Modification of planters, or improved seeding strategies for establishing cover crops in standing corn and soybean at different growth stages.
  2. A cover crop aerial seeding decision aid to seed cover crops in standing corn and soybean.
  3. Microclimate characterization under various crop growth stages to optimize prediction models.
  4. Estimation of N credits from cover crops and increased N use efficiency by subsequent crops.
  5. Economic analysis of decision aids and seeding equipment modification.

Objective 2 - Introducing relay-cropping and intercropping to existing cropping systems.

  1. Determining optimum time to seed winter camelina and pennycress into standing corn and soybean in conjunction with relay cropping soybean.
    1. Interseeding of camelina and pennycress into standing corn and soybean 

    2. Interseeding of cover crops in standing soybean
    3. Interseeding camelina and rye in corn at different stages, row spacing and hybrid maturity
    4. Cover crops variety and seeding date trial
    5. Winter camelina and pennycress variety trial
  2. Determining pollinator activity/visitation during the spring in camelina and pennycress
  3. Intercropping of corn and alfalfa
  4. Economic analysis of cropping systems energy balance and LCA of novel cropping systems

Objective 3 - On-farm, outreach, and Extension activities

  • On farm trials will be established in Rutland and Gardner, ND, Waseca, MN, and Ames, IA in 2017 with the new interseeder. Only intercropping camelina and rye into corn will be evaluated.  But to have better control of plots thsi will be planted with the new plot planter in ND, and with a Hege type in Minnesota and Iowa.
  • The results of alfalfa-corn intercropping in 2016 showed a reduction in maize grain yield, thus on-farm establishment of this system needs to be studied further.
  •  Extension activities have been followed with a survey to farmers.  Survey on cover crop practices to farmers:  Diversity of crop rotation (25%) and establishing a cover crop in standing corn (28%) were adopted by the most respondents as a result of the café talks. Growing cover crop for seed (33%) and using cereal rye as a cash crop (44%) are two practices that the most respondents are not considering adopting. There are a lot more respondents who seem receptive to cover crop practices, but have not yet taken the leap.

    Some of the greatest adoption rates correlate with the percentage of meetings where the topic was covered. Using barley on salt-affected areas, discussed at every café talk, had the greatest adoption among respondents (32%). Cover crops—also discussed at every meeting—had the 2nd greatest adoption rates (28% and 25%).

    Barriers to adoption: The greatest barriers to adoption concern: appropriate equipment—the lack of it (39%) and the cost (57%). All respondents agreed that the cost was at least a minor barrier.

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