Dig Deeper


Rodale Institute Seeks Field/Equipment Specialist

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Rodale Institute is seeking Field/Equipment Specialist to join our team!

Job description and qualifications are listed below. Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to elaine.macbeth@rodaleinstitute.org

SUMMARY: The Rodale Institute, a world leader in organic agricultural research, is looking for an equipment mechanic to manage a diverse shop for equipment maintenance and fabrication.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

● Work in a team environment to conduct day-to-day activities, to perform routine maintenance on equipment necessary to support all farm functions.
● Oder parts and shop supplies to facilitate smooth operations and minimize equipment “down time.”
● Conduct routine inspection s as needed to ensure safe working conditions.
● Use computerized record keeping system to track all shop records.
● Work with all other teams; compost, landscaping, livestock, ASC, orchard, greenhouse, and research as time allows supporting their goals and objectives.

Note: Other duties may/will be assigned on a case by case and as-needed basis.

QUALIFICATIONS: 

Must be able and willing to work in all types of weather, be able to lift in excess of 50 pounds, have good communications skills – (both written and verbal), and be flexible in hours as farm work can be unpredictable. Must be able to weld with MIG and ARC, use standard cutting torch equipment and be familiar with the safe operations of all hand tools for mechanical purposes. Must be trustful and respectful to all staff and visitors.

EDUCATION and/or EXPERIENCE:

Should have several years’ experience in all types’ agricultural equipment repair and maintenance. Vocational Technical experience, welding certificate or other course work will be valued.

TRAVEL:

Minimal travel required, most work conducted on-site.

 

Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC) internships available!

Agriculture Supported Communications (ASC) internship 2016

Rodale Institute is now accepting applications for Internship Positions in the Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC) Program for the 2016 growing season.  The ASC Program is a modified farm share program based on 5 acres and offering affordable payment plans to make fresh, local, organic produce accessible to 180 families the community.

Internship participants will be trained with responsibilities in every aspect of operating a small local organic grower’s business; it is an educational internship with real life responsibilities.

Individuals who are serious about taking the next steps towards starting their own sustainable, organic growers business should apply.  Applicants should have some farming experience, have a self-motivated positive attitude, be able to lift up to 40 lbs, and expect to be working in seasonal environmental elements.

Hands-on training and responsibilities will include: seed starting, greenhouse production & seasonal extensions, transplanting, pest & weed management, soil health, introduction to large equipment, harvesting, processing, marketing, customer relations, and working with community partners.  In addition the internship program will follow a comprehensive curriculum exposing participants to training in business planning & marketing, nutrition education, and designing a crop plan.

Interns will graduate from the full-time 8-month program (April – November) considered an Ambassador of the Rodale Institute and can expect a continued developing relationship with our organization.

Individuals from urban areas are encouraged to apply (i.e. Allentown, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore, New York, etc)

Please send completed application, resume and cover letter to Cynthia James, ASC Program Manager at the Rodale Institute.  cynthia.james@rodaleinstitute.org

Compensation will include an intensive educational experience, housing, food from the farm and a modest stipend.

Additional internships are also available with focus in areas of livestock, garden, St. Luke’s Hospital farm, research and communications.  See our website for details: http://rodaleinstitute.org/dig-deeper/work-with-us/.

Rodale Institute (www.rodaleinstitute.org), in Kutztown, PA, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1947 by organic pioneer J.I. Rodale to study the link between healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people.  Since then, the Rodale Institute has been dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research, education and outreach. For over sixty years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet.

Rodale Institute is an equal opportunity employer.

Communications and Outreach Internships

Rodale-logoCommunications and Outreach Internship 2016

Rodale Institute is seeking an intern to assist the communications department with all aspects of department operations. The applicant should have a strong interest in writing, journalism, media relations and be web and computer savvy. Interest or knowledge in organic agriculture, healthy living, environmental and/or agricultural policy, or science a plus, but not required. (more…)

Research Interns needed at Rodale Institute

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Research Internship 2016

Rodale Institute’s Research Department investigates a number of scientific and regenerative farming issues, including cover crop practices, organic weed management, organic no-till systems, compost use, influences of agricultural practices on water quality, and effects of mycorrhizae and other soil biota on crop and soil health, and yields. The Department also oversees the Farming Systems Trial (FST), the oldest continuous trial in the US that compares organic and conventional farming systems.

To support this research, our interns work with staff researchers to lay out experimental field plots, assist with greenhouse plantings, conduct lab experiments, tend and maintain experiments, collect and process samples from the field, and enter data for statistical analysis and interpretation. This work involves physical activities in the field, lab work, and computer use, operating both in teams and individually. Many long days in the field collecting soil samples, assessing weed populations, and picking crops to determine yield should be expected. Interns that can work for two or more months duration, between May and December are desired. Preference will be given to applicants who can be present for longer periods of time. (more…)

Garden Internships

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Garden Internship 2016

Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1947 by organic pioneer J.I. Rodale to study the link between healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people.  Since then, the Rodale Institute has been dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research, education and outreach. For over sixty years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet.

Opportunity:

Rodale Institute offers an educational and hands-on opportunity for interns to learn and practice the fundamental principles of organic plant cultivation and garden maintenance. Garden areas will include Medicinal Plant Garden, Homestead Demonstration Vegetable Garden and Cut Flower & Pollinator Garden. These areas of the farm are the primary focus on site for the Institute with the visiting public and events. As such, they must be maintained to high standards. Interns will have the opportunity to work with a diverse selection of plant material including vegetables, flowers, medicinal herbs, shrubs and trees.

Duties: 

The garden intern will be involved in all aspects of garden work including:

  • Seeding in the greenhouse, watering and maintenance of greenhouse plants and cold frames.
  • Establishment of garden beds, assisting in garden layout and planting of transplants.
  • On-going plant care including: pruning, dead-heading, watering, mulching, and weeding.  Harvest of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
  • Implementation of organic pest control measures when needed.
  • Preparation and application of compost teas and fertilizers when needed.
  • Work hours include a rotating schedule with weekend shifts.  Work days may commonly exceed 8 hours in the summer season.
  • On site housing is provided, farm produce, as well as a small weekly stipend.

Requirements: 

Must be able to routinely lift 50 pounds, move freely around the farm, have the ability and willingness to operate machinery, and be able and willing to work under adverse weather conditions.  Must have attention to detail, ability to follow directions, and maintain accurate garden records.

Please send resume and cover letter to Maggie Saska, Plant Production Specialist at Rodale Institute: maggie.saska@rodaleinstitute.org

St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm Internship

 

Rodale-logoSt. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm Internship 2016

stLukesSliderRodale Institute is seeking enthusiastic individuals with a positive spirit to apply for an internship at the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm. The farm is a partnership between the Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s Hospital to create an innovative farm-to-institute model. The farm provides produce to all six hospitals in the St. Luke’s health network. In 2015 the farm will also pilot a small CSA program for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

The St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm is embarking into its second growing season and requires strong and confident individuals to join the team. Interns will be trained in greenhouse production, field work, pest & weed management, farm equipment, record keeping, irrigation, CSA distribution, bee keeping, Wholesale distribution, and various other skills associated with the day to day operations necessary to run an organic farm. Interns will also have access to educational opportunities and training at the Rodale Institute.

SLUHN.Intern Interns must be committed to the farm’s success, and in turn, the farm will be committed to the intern’s success. The program strives to help launch interns into a farming career by proving a solid foundation in agriculture and helping interns make connections in the field of agriculture both literally and figuratively.

Interns will be provided with on-site housing, access to vegetable, and a small stipend. The internship will begin in April and end in November.

Rodale Institute believes healthy soil, produces healthy food which produces healthy people. The St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm Internship is an amazing opportunity for interns to begin an agricultural career, uphold the Rodale Institute’s mission and change our current food system for the better.

To apply, send a letter of interest and resume to Lynn Trizna, Project Manager at lynn.trizna@rodaleinstitute.org

St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm- Seasonal Full Time Position

The St. Luke's Rodale Institute Organic Farm is located on St. Luke's Hospital Anderson Campus in Easton, Pennsylvania. The farm has acted as a pioneer in the farm-to-hospital movement by providing nutritious, chemical-free produce to all six hospitals in the St. Luke's network. The farm produces 33 vegetable varieties on 7.5 acres through organic methods and following Good Agricultural Practices. The farm is expanding production as it enters into it's third season by increasing acreage and purchasing new equipment.

The Rodale Institute is looking for two motivated seasonal full-time workers to lend a helping hand at the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm. Workers are expected to help improve the farm system and therefor should be self-motivated and creative, but also work well in groups. The position offers unique and valuable educational and career opportunities.

End date: November 4th, 2016

Hours: Approximately 40 hours/ week

Pay: $12/ hour

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Greenhouse plant production
  • Pest & weed management
  • Planting
  • Harvesting
  • Processing & packing vegetables
  • Maintaining plant & soil health
  • Maintaining organic records
  • Tractor Field Work
  • Manage cover crops

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Background in Market Gardening or Farming
  • Strong work ethic
  • Ability to lift 50 lbs
  • Must have valid driver's license
  • Willingness to work outside in all weather conditions
  • Other Institutional Expectations:
  • Must be trustful and respectful to all staff and visitors.

TO APPLY:

Send resume and cover letter to elaine.macbeth@rodaleinstitute.org

Potential Contamination in Inputs: How it is addressed in the organic standards

Potential Contamination in Inputs: How it is addressed in the organic standards

By Doug Currier, OMRI Review Program Technical Supervisor

iStock_000006707563MediumPesticide contamination in compost is a concern particularly when compost is manufactured using conventional crop residues or residential yard waste, both allowed feedstocks under U.S. and Canadian organic regulations. Because these compost feedstocks can carry a higher risk for contamination with residual pesticides, organic farmers are careful about how compost is sourced, how it is made and how it is applied. For example, OMRI has seen farmers begin to test incoming compost on crops highly sensitive to residual herbicides, such as those in the Cucurbitaceae and Solanaceae families, before adding to potting mixes or applying to the soil. The NOP implemented a requirement that all certifiers test 5% of their certified operations for contamination after conducting a lengthy investigation and pilot study in 2010, where samples were collected from domestic and imported commodities representing 6 common crops. The study found that many organic crops contained some residue, and 4% of the crops tested contained unacceptable amounts of pesticide residue.

Where the U.S. organic standards focus on the testing of certified organic food products (or, as another example the soil) to address pesticide contamination risk, the Canada Organic Regime (COR) standards specifically address the risk of pesticide contamination of inputs. Table 4.2 in the Canada Permitted Substances List (PSL) states under Compost feedstocks, “When evidence indicates that composting feedstocks may contain a substance prohibited by 1.4 of CAN/CGSB-32.310 known to be persistent in compost, documentation or testing of the final product may be required.” The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Standards Interpretation Committee “Q and A” further explains that this verification can be conducted in one of two ways:

1. analysis of the final compost product; or

2. reference to scientific literature which establishes the common degradation of contaminants during the composting process.

It is the responsibility of the certifying body (CB) to assess the risk of contamination and require documentation appropriate to each circumstance. Since OMRI provides a service to meet the needs of CBs and deliver information related to product compliance, it was determined that additional information about contaminants is necessary in order to determine whether a given compost product should be allowed in organic production.

In order to meet these Canadian organic standards for compost feedstocks, OMRI recently implemented new pesticide residue testing protocols and thresholds* for some compost products reviewed under the COR standards. For compost products applying under the OMRI Canada program that use non-manure feedstocks, OMRI requires that applicants submit testing results for the following persistent pesticide contaminants: clopyralid, picloram, aminopyralid, fluroxypyr and triclopyr, as well as bifenthrin (pyrethroid). Alternatively, in lieu of testing, OMRI has accepted the submission of documentation that demonstrates that persistent pesticides were never applied to the non-manure feedstocks. For example, if municipal green waste is used as a compost feedstock, persistent herbicide testing is not required when green waste is sourced from municipalities which operate under a pesticide ban. Back in the U.S., the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) continues to actively investigate contamination issues, and the NOSB Crops Subcommittee has identified contamination of compost as an area of concern where further research is needed. A discussion document prepared by the subcommittee lists potential sources of compost contamination, and aims to identify avoidance methods and shed light on factors affecting the persistence of these contaminants in organic systems. Compost residues are also listed on the NOSB proposed research priorities for the coming year.

*As a certification organization accredited to ISO 17065, OMRI follows formal procedures to develop new standards. The new residue testing requirements were supported by OMRI’s Canada Review Panel and approved by the OMRI Board of Directors.

DC 097Doug Currier holds a B.A. in Geography from the University of South Florida and an M.Sc. in Organic Farming from the Scottish Agricultural College where his dissertation focused on public sector procurement and the organic sector, specifically identifying and overcoming barriers to the procurement and supply of organic produce in schools in the English County of Cornwall. Prior to joining OMRI, Doug worked on a small organic holding in East Lothian, Scotland as an assistant grower and bookkeeper and also as a shop assistant at a certified organic whole foods retailer. Doug has been with OMRI since 2011.

Demonstrating the Use of Roller Crimper Technology and Starter Fertilizer in No-Till Organic Corn

Report

To download a PDF of this report, click the image above.

Gladis Zinati1*, Ph.D., Jeff Moyer2, and Rae Moore3
1Associate Research Scientist, 2Executive Director, and 3Research Technician
Rodale Institute, 611 Siegfriedale Road, Kutztown, PA 19530
*Email: gladis.zinati@rodaleinstitute.org

Published December 18, 2015

Introduction 

The development of the roller-crimper has provided an alternative means for terminating cover crops and planting organic cash crops into rolled cover crop mulch that serve as a primary weed suppression tool. The utilization of a roller-crimper in no-till systems is gaining popularity among organic and conventional grain growers.

No-till practices create challenges for livestock farmers who incorporate manure into their soil, as valuable fertility amendments, prior to standard tillage and crop planting. In the fall of 2012, Rodale Institute in collaboration with USDA-ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and North Carolina State University were awarded a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant to address the challenges of integrating manure applications into a rolled cover crop system to ensure nutrient retention for livestock farmers.

In the fall of 2013, a research team at Rodale Institute, Kutztown, PA, partnered with a livestock producer to demonstrate and evaluate the proposed integrated technology on corn production, weed management and soil health.

The aim of this article is to present readers with the latest research findings from the demonstration trial conducted at the livestock producer’s farm in Kutztown, PA and in conclusion make recommendations based on information gained from this project.

Demonstration Trial 

The team demonstrated and evaluated the impact a rolled cover crop with or without injection of starter fertilizer -pelletized poultry manure- could have on a) corn plant biomass and plant nutrient content, b) weed suppression, c) corn yield, and d) soil health. The farmer’s standard practice treatment was included in the demonstration for comparison.

• Cover crop mixtures of cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) ‘Wrens Abruzzi’ and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) ‘Purple Bounty’ were drilled at seeding rates of 90 lb/acre (101 kg/ha) and 12 lb/acre (13.5 kg/ha), respectively, on September 13, 2013 and grown until spring 2014.

• Three treatments with four replications were established: rolled cover crop (CC, no fertilizer), rolled cover crop with subsurface banding of pelletized poultry litter manure (CC+PL), and the farmer’s standard practice (FSP) treatment. Below are the details:

 

Farmer’s standard practice treatment:Photo1

• Livestock producers grow cover crops until early spring before they mow and bale the biomass to feed their animals. The cover crop was mowed on May 22, 2014 (Photo 1) and baled.

• The cover crop regrew (very little) until it was cut and baled on June 4th, 2014. Then, dairy manure was surface applied at 11 tons/acre on top of the green residue covering the soil.

• The soil was then tilled, disked twice and leveled for corn planting on the same day the other two treatments were established and planted with corn.

CC and CC+PL treatments:

• The cover crop mixture was left to grow until June 4 , 2014 when cereal rye reached anthesis (flowering) and hairy vetch had 50% pod formation.

• The cover crop was rolled and crimped in the CC and CC+PL treatments. In contrast to the farmer’s standard practice, tillage was NOT implemented in the CC- and CC+PL- treated plots and the soil was not disturbed for seedbed preparation. 

Photo2• On June 6th, 2014, the team demonstrated the rolling-crimping of the cover crop to the livestock producer, injection of pelletized poultry litter fertilizer and corn seed planting with the Monosem® corn planter in one tractor pass. The corn was planted at 36,000 seeds/acre into rows 2.5 ft apart (Photo 2).

• The CC+PL treatment received 515 lb/acre of pelletized poultry manure. It is important to note that in this trial a low rate of starter fertilizer - pelletized poultry manure application was used and evaluated for its impact on grain yield and soil health and to avoid loading the soil with excessive nitrogen and phosphorus levels that may lead to nutrient loss or imbalance.

Key Findings 

Cover crop biomass 

The mean cover crop dry weight was 11,840 lb/acre (13,272 kg/ha) in the rolled cover crop treatments (CC and CC+PL). The dry weight exceeded 7,137 lb/acre (8,000 kg/ha), the suggested value for effective weed control [1]. The cover crop biomass was dense which required modification of the planter to include additional weight to increase downward pressure and the addition of residue slicers to facilitate better seed placement [2]. However, in the FSP treatment, the cover crop biomass averaged 5,034 lb/acre (5,642 kg/ha), which was removed and baled by the farmer on May 22, 2014.

Corn plant biomass and tissue N concentration 

Whole corn plant biomass in the FSP treatment was 15,680 lb/acre (17,561 kg/ha) and similar to that in the CC treatment (12,729 lb/acre or 14,256 kg/ha) but greater than that in the CC + PL treatment, averaging 12,263 lb/acre or 13,734 kg/ha). Mean plant tissue N concentration in the CC and CC+PL treatments was 0.88%, whereas the addition of dairy manure in the farmer’s treatment increased plant tissue N concentration to 0.99%.

Weed biomass 

Fig1In all treatments, weed biomass was sampled between corn rows at corn silking (R1) growth stage. It is important to note that in the rolled no-till management treatments (CC and CC+PL) cultivation did not occur during corn growth, whereas, in the FSP treatment the farmer cultivated four times before corn plants reached silking, a common standard practice in tilled organic cropping system. Despite that, weed biomass in the CC+PL treatment was much lower than in either CC or FSP treatments. The findings show that weed suppression was achieved in the C +PL treatment and surpassed the FSP despite the repetitive cultivations made by the farmer (Fig.1, Photo 3). The rolled cover crop mulch in the CC+PL treatment acted as physical barrier, limiting the light required for weed seed germination and weed growth [3-4]. In the no-till system, labor and fuel costs were reduced due to the elimination of certain field operations, such as plowing, disking for seedbed preparation and cultivation for weed management during the growing season.

Photo3
Photo4Compared to FSP treatment, the rolled- crimped cover crop mulch reduced soil erosion and loss of water and nutrient resources (field observations made during heavy rainfalls), reduced water evaporation (Photo 4) and reduced the carbon footprint. The injection of starter fertilizer enhanced seedling vigor and canopy closure (Photo 3, right), reducing the light penetration to weed seeds normally required for germination and emergence.

 

 

 

Corn grain yieldFig2

Greater corn yields were achieved in the rolled cover crop with injected poultry litter (CC+PL) treatment and were similar to that in the FSP treatment (Fig. 2). Results also show that it was critical to add an organic amendment at time of planting to boost corn grain yields in no-till cover crop-based organic corn production (Fig. 2). The addition of poultry manure increased corn yield by 19 bu/acre, which would amount to a revenue increase of $247,000 on 1000 acres of corn sold at $13/bu.

 

Soil nitrate

Fig3Mean soil nitrate levels in the FSP treatment were greater than those in either the CC or CC+PL treatments between V5 and R1 (Fig. 3). Levels of soil nitrate in the CC and CC+PL treatments were ≤ 10 ppm, the Maximum contamination level (MCL), whereas nitrate levels in the FSP treatment exceeded the MCL for corn during V5 and R1.

Conclusions

• The rolled-crimped cover crop mulch was dense and reduced light penetration at levels sufficient to reduce weed seed emergence and suppress weed growth.

• The injection of starter fertilizer improved corn yields when compared to the livestock producer’s standard treatment.

• The proposed system not only improved weed control and provided a respectable corn yield but also reduced labor and energy costs, conserved water and nutrients from being lost to the environment, improved soil health by reducing tillage, and provided a source of food for soil microorganisms.

• This trial allowed the research team to successfully demonstrate and engage the livestock producer throughout the process. In some instances, the farmer provided input on planter modifications, including extra weights to allow the residue slicers cut through the dense cover crop. The experience gained by the farmer during this trial motivated him to explore new options in designing or modifying his own equipment to implement no-till systems on his own farm.

References

.[1] Teasdale, J.R. and Mohler, C.L. 2000. The quantitative relationship between weed emergence and the physical properties of mulches. Weed Sci. 48:385–392.

[2] Zinati, G., J. Moyer, and G. Tant. 2015. Overcoming challenges of reduced-till organic corn. pp. 1-5. Online web article. http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/soil-health/soil-health-current-projects/

[3] Barnes, J.P. and A.R.Putnam. 1983. Rye residues contribute weed suppression in no-tillage cropping systems. J. Chem. Econl. 9:1045-1057.

[4] Vidal, R.A, T.T. Bauman, and W.J. Lambert. 1994. The effect of various wheat straw densities on weed populations. Weed Sci. Soc. Am. Abstr. 34:72.

“This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Grant Agreement Number 69-3A75-11-193.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 1.41.48 PMRodale-logo

Overcoming Challenges of Reduced-Till Organic Corn

To download a PDF of this report, click the image above.

Gladis Zinati1, Ph.D., Mr. Jeff Moyer1, Mr. Guillaume Tant2
Associate Research Scientist, Executive Director, Visiting Intern
1Rodale Institute, 611 Siegfriedale Road, Kutztown, PA 19530
2ISARA-Lyon 23 rue Jean Baldassini, 69007, Lyon, France

Published December 11, 2015

Organic grain producers have been relying on mechanical cultivation to manage weeds, using row cultivators between rows and rotary hoes or harrows over the rows. However, frequent soil cultivation weakens soil health [1]; brings buried weed seeds to the soil surface where they are more likely to germinate and compete with crop plants; potentially reducing yields and growers’ profits.  Organic grain growers are becoming interested in improving soil health, by reducing tillage frequency, and covering the soil surface with cover crops over the winter season.

Using cover crops along with reduced or no-tillage improves soil health and profitability. This can be achieved by the integration cover crops and roller-crimper technology [2].

The role of the roller-crimper (Photo 1) is to roll and crimp the standing cover crop forming a soil covering mulch.Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 1.02.15 PM

This approach has many advantages:

- reduces or eliminates cultivation,
- reduces soil temperature fluctuation,
- promotes weed suppression,
- builds soil organic matter content and soil structure; and
- conserves soil moisture.

Ecosystem services of cover crops 

Cover crops play multiple roles in improving system performance through increased nitrogen fixation and nutrient cycling, soil biodiversity, water infiltration and storage, and soil organic matter content; reduced soil erosion, compaction, and pest and weed pressure; and improved soil structure [3-5].

Legume cover crops, such as hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) and Austrian winter pea, provide nitrogen (N) to cash crops though rarely provide sufficient N for high N demanding crops such as corn. Cereal cover crop mulches such as rye (Secale cereale L.) can have the opposite effect by immobilizing N and have a longer impact on soil moisture and weed dynamics. Physical [6] rather than allelopathic [7] influences from cereal rye residue have been shown to inhibit weed germination and growth processes of many plant species especially because the active phytotoxic compounds may not be present in soil more than 2 weeks after rye termination [8].

A dense uniform cover crop is needed to create a soil covering mulch that enhances suppression of weeds. For effective suppression of annual weeds, research has shown that there must be at least 8,000 kg ha-1 of rye aboveground dry biomass to create a mulch of at least 10 cm deep at time of rolling [9].

Cover crop management is a key

Successful weed suppression using cover crop mulches is highly dependent, not only on the amount of biomass but also on the rate of decomposition.  Upon rolling the cover crops, decomposition starts. Decomposition rate of rolled cover crops may vary with the type of cover crop. Legume mulches decompose at a faster rate (50% dry matter can be lost in first three weeks) than those with cereal cover crops (50% dry matter can be lost in nine weeks) [10]Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 1.02.29 PM Planting a mixture of legumes and grass cover crops (Photo 2) will provide a fast growing, dense ground cover and thicker residue mulch upon rolling (Photo 3). Cover crop biomass can be manipulated mainly with seeding rate and time of planting. Early planting of cover crops in September rather than later in October (in the Northeast) provides enough biomass to cover soil surface and establishment of good root biomass before soil freezes in the winter. In spring, cover crop mixtures such as cereal rye with hairy vetch continue to grow and increase in biomass. Residue of rolled cover crop mixtures that include hairy vetch and cereal rye supply N and decompose at a slower rate than when the biomass is tilled into the soil in a corn production system. Such a cover crop mixture can yield above ground biomass production of between 8,922 to 10,706 lb/acre (10,000 to 12,000 kg per hectare).

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 12.17.54 PMImportance of proper equipment

Jeff Moyer modified a Monosem® corn planter and included the Pequea turbo disc soil slicers and 130 pounds of added weight per row unit to cut through the rolled cover crop.

Despite many successes in rolling leguminous cover crops at Rodale Institute, planting no- or reduced-till corn into dense cover crop residue that includes cereal–legume cover crop mixtures can be challenging. A thick layer of plant residue on the soil surface may impede planter performance and seed-to-soil contact (Photo 4), reduce corn plant population and consequently yield.

To overcome this problem, Mr. Moyer included residue slicers in the front to ensure cutting through the dense cover crop residue before drilling in corn seeds (Photo 5).

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 12.18.03 PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 12.18.17 PMThe residue slicer is compatible with John Deere 7000-7200-1750 planters. The combination of down spring pressure, a straight blade, and the rubber wheels to hold the thick residue will make a clean cut.

In addition, the Yetter shark-tooth residue managers (i.e., row cleaners) (Yetter Manufacturing Co Inc., IL), placed in front of each Pequea turbo soil slicer (Photo 6) can be used to improve plant establishment.

This modification enhanced slicing through the rolled cover crop, seed bed preparation, drilling of corn seeds without missing (Photo 7), seed germination and plant growth (Photo 8).

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 1.03.08 PM

Summary

Frequent soil cultivation disrupts soil biota and structure and eventually degrades soil biota† health. The integration of using cover crops and roller crimper technology provided growers with alternative management system to reduce or eliminate tillage. This system provides extended ecosystem services of cover crops by increasing duration of the living cover crop during the winter time and rolling it into mulch in spring. This system reduces tillage, improves soil health, suppresses weeds and increases profitability. In organic systems, grain growers are interested in adopting reduced- or no-till practices to improve crop and soil productivity. For successful weed suppression, a dense uniform cover crop biomass is needed. Planting corn grain into thick cover crop mulch can be challenging. These challenges can be overcome by using proper equipment. In this article we highlighted the challenges and the modifications made to Monosem® corn planter. By integrating the roller crimper, residue slicers, Pequea slicers, and YetterTM shark-teeth to the corn planter, we were successful in rolling-crimping and slicing through the dense layer of mulch and consequently increasing corn establishment and improving weed management throughout the growing season without tillage.  This system also allowed us to plant corn and fertilize with pelleted chicken manure in one pass rather than running several passes with machinery over soil surface in order to conduct these operations. In the long-term, applying these practices would improve soil carbon sequestration, water and nutrient plant use efficiency, reduce fuel and labor costs, and consequently increase yields and profitability.

References

[1] Grandy, A. S., G. P. Robertson, and K. D. Thelen. 2006. Do productivity and environmental trade-offs justify periodically cultivating no-till cropping systems? Agron. J. 98:1377–1383.

[2] Davis, A.S. 2010. Cover-crop roller–crimper contributes to weed management in no-till soybean. Weed Sci. 58:300–309.

[3] Dabney, S.M., Delgado, J.A., and Reeves, D.W. (2001) Using winter cover crops to improve soil and water quality. Commun. Soil Sci. and Plant Anal. 32: 1221–1250.

[4] Torbert, H. A., D. W. Reeves, and R. L. Mulvaney. 1996. Winter legume cover crop benefits to corn: Rotation vs. fixed-nitrogen effects. Agron. J. 88:527–535.

[5] Vieira, F. C. B., C. Bayer, J. A. Zanatta, J. Mielniczuk, and J. Six. 2009. Building up organic matter in a subtropical Paleudult under legume cover-crop-based rotations. SSSAJ 73:1699–1706.

[6] Teasdale, J. R., C. P. Rice, G. Cai, and R. W. Magnum. 2012. Expression of allelopathy in the soil environment: soil concentration and activity of benzoxazinoid compounds released by rye cover crop residue. J. Plant Ecol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11258-012-0057-x.

[7] Barnes, J. P. and A. R. Putnam. 1987. Role of benzoxazinones in allelopathy by rye. J. Chem. Ecol. 13:889–906.

[8] Rice, C. P., G. Cai, and J. R. Teasdale. 2012. Fate of benzoxazinoids in soil treated with rye cover crop. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60:4471–4479.

[9] Teasdale, J. R. and C. L. Mohler. 2000. The quantitative relationship between weed emergence and the physical properties of mulches. Weed Sci. 48:385–392.

10] Herbert, S.J., Y. Liu, and G. Liu. 1997. Decomposition of Cover Crop Biomass and Nitrogen Release. http://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/research-reports/1997-01-decomposition-of-cover-crops-biomass-and-nitrogen-release.pdf Accessed online October 10, 2015.

† Soil biota: It is the biologically active powerhouse of the soil. It includes a diverse range of micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, and algae) and soil “animals” (nematodes, protozoa, spiders, earthworms and mites), interacting with plant roots.

“This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Grant Agreement Number 69-3A75-11-193.”

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