Nutrient management in organic no-till systems

by Dr. Gladis Zinati

No-till management is generally recognized for its potential to improve soil quality, significantly reduce runoff and erosion, sequester atmospheric CO2, increase nitrogen conservation, as well as reduceĀ  machinery, labor and fuel costs. However conventional no-till relies on broad spectrum herbicides and the ability to spread or inject chemical fertilizers as nutritional supplementation. In non-chemical strategies, rolled cover crops can be used as mulches to suppress weeds and supply nutrients. However, this creates challenges for livestock farmers who want to utilize animal manure as a fertility amendment while taking advantage of the benefits of no-till.

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 under a rolled cover crop to ensure nutrient retention for livestock farmers. The goal of this project is to combine commonly used planter fertilizer technology with reduced-tillage practices for organic corn production to optimize the use of animal waste products. More specifically, we are aiming for improved soil nutrient retention, increased crop production, reduced labor and input costs and, ultimately, increased economic returns.

In the fall of 2012 our multi-institution, multi-disciplinary team began establishing the demonstration component of the project, planting cover crop mixtures of hairy vetch/rye at all collaborating University and on-farm sites. Cover crop rolling began in May 2013 at which time we planted the corn crop and applied the pelletized animal manure.

This is the first year of the three-year project, so stay tuned for more information as we gather more data.

Additional resources will be listed under the project summary in the soil health section of our website as they are developed. {LEARN MORE }

4 Responses to “Nutrient management in organic no-till systems”

  1. martin entz

    Hello there,

    This work incorporating livestock manure into organic o-till is fascinating and we are wondering if we could visit the site some time in July.

    thank you

    martin entz
    Professor of Natural Systems Agriculture

  2. bud hoekstra

    You used the term “soil nutrient retention.” Other related terms include hydraulic residence and dissipation half-life. Are there other terms that relate to the percolation of nitrates into groundwater? [You also used the term nitrogen conservation]

  3. Michael O'Donnell

    Will you be working with other forms of manure, aside from the pelletized form? Pelletized manure may not be available or practical for many situations. Thank you.


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