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Monday, December 7, 2015

Cover Crops and Soil Health

Healthy Soils For Healthy Waters was the title of the Symposium that kicked off the Edge of Field Monitoring and Nutrient Management Conference.  The highlight of the whole conference was listening to David Brandt of Ohio discuss his system of cover crops and No-Till.  Brandt has been using cover crops for over 30 years.  His soils test very high for microbial respiration.  This indicates high microbial activity.  His figure of a $72 per acre net benefit to using cover crops is a  compelling reason to go for it.  I also had the privilege to visit with Brandt in person.  He talked a good bit about the benefits of using multiple cover crop species to enhance benefits.  He has tried as many as 12 species, but finds little addition benefit beyond using 8 species.

In an informal discussion over dinner, one of the Ohio State University professors in attendance indicated that he did not think that you could ever get enough nitrogen out of cover crops to have top yields.  Brandt disputed those remarks saying that he could raise 250 bushel per acre corn if he planted cover crops after harvesting wheat instead of going to double crop soybeans. Brandt is also experimenting with inter-seeding soybeans between corn rows for their nitrogen benefit.  The more we hear about cover crops, the more compelling it seems to use them,

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