2008 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Our objective is to evaluate selected cropping and tillage systems that maximize water conservation and overall profit margins. Specifically, this cooperative arrangement incorporates conservation tillage and an alternate crop, pearl millet, into Mr. Hancock’s farming operation to improve water/drought, fertility (source=poultry litter), and soil quality management and has poultry feed and biofuel implications.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
We will work with Mr. Fred Hancock to integrate and incorporate plot-, process-based research findings with on-farm issues, limitations, and management plans/practices that will sustain profitability and conserve soil and water. We will incorporate conservation tillage into his operation on a field-scale and monitor improvements in water and fertility management that subsequently impact his field/farm profit margins. We will also work with Mr. Hancock to incorporate an alternative crop, pearl millet, into his cropping systems/rotations and evaluate this crop’s potential impact on water/drought (irrigation scheduling), poultry feed source (production), and biofuel implications.
We incorporated conservation tillage (strip tillage) and furrow diking on a 12-A field cropped to corn during the 2008 growing season. Strip tillage consisted of planting a cover crop of rye and Austrian peas in the fall, 2007; killing the cover crop 3 weeks prior to planting corn; and planting the corn in a 6-8 inch tilled strip with surface residue remaining between rows. Austrian peas, a legume, produce nitrogen for the subsequent corn crop. Furrow diking was imposed on half the field immediately after planting corn, and created a series of surface storage basins or micro-catchments between crop rows over short (5 ft.) intervals to more effectively catch and retain rainfall and/or irrigation. Rainfall and irrigation water amounts were continuously monitored as well as changes in soil water (top 24 inches of soil). Corn yields were recorded and profit margins associated with water/energy savings resulting from imposed practices (strip tillage and furrow diking) will be calculated.
We also incorporated strip tillage on the rest of farmable acreage. This acreage is in a corn-corn-peanut rotation. For the corn acreage, we planted a cover crop of rye and Austrian peas in the fall, 2007, with Austrian peas serving as the legume to produce nitrogen for the subsequent corn crop. Fertilizer source (commercial fertilizer vs. poultry litter) was compared on corn acreage. For the peanut acreage, we planted a cover crop of wheat in the fall, 2007, which was harvested in early May, 2008 just prior to planting strip till peanuts in the remaining wheat residue.
Monitoring Activities: Emails, phone calls and site visits.