2011 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.
This project relates to Objective 3 of the inhouse project: Measure hydrologic components (rainfall, runoff, infiltration, soil water content and redistribution following rainfall and irrigation, lateral subsurface flow, plant water use and evapotranspiration so that differences in plant water use and evapotranspiration so that differences in plant available water as a function of cropping, tillage systems, soil compaction, and rooting density can be quantified.
In late 2007, we advised Mr. Hancock in the conversion of his ~350 planted acres from conventional tillage (CT) to strip tillage (ST) by planting a rye cover crop (1 bu/A rate). In all years (2007-2011), we used a 12-A field within Mr. Hancock’s Farm as a demonstration site (ST). In 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 growing seasons, we evaluated corn, soybeans, pearl millet, and peanut, respectively, with furrow diking vs. non-diking and irrigation scheduling (Irrigator Pro; 100 & 80%) treatments established. Rye+Austrian Peas (legume; 30-50 lbs./A rate) were planted as the cover crop prior to corn and pearl millet; rye or wheat provided surface cover for soybeans and peanuts. Poultry litter was used as the base nutrient source, and was applied based on standard soil analysis results. Commercial fertilizer was used in popup and sidedress applications. Improved fertility and decreased runoff and sediment yields were obtained in response to ST and/or furrow diking. No crop yield differences occurred due to ST and/or furrow diking adoption. Annual erosion was reduced as a result of ST immediately after ST adoption (year.
1)and in all subsequent years. Fields with low productivity areas as a result of gully erosion were remediated with ST incorporation. After 3-yrs of ST, increased soil water in the top 24 inches of soil resulted in one less irrigation per crop per year and saved $12-$20 per A-in of irrigation water applied. Further savings resulted from CT averaging 7 trips across the field; ST averaged 3 trips. Peanut planted to ST (wheat or rye) had less soil borne disease issues than peanut planted to CT and decreased the amount of pesticides needed to control disease. Pearl millet as an alternative crop for biofuel production or wildlife (quail) management showed promise as a double crop alternative after corn in terms of efficient use of idle land and weed control.
Progress was monitored through phone calls, site visits and email.