OSU's Jason Warren Talks Innovative Crop Rotations Using Cover CropsWed, 18 May 2016 22:12:28 CDT
Finding the right crop rotation can be a key to successful no-till farming, and Dr. Jason Warren, assistant professor and soil and water conservation/management extension specialist at OSU, says cover crops are finding their way more and more into those rotations.
For a continuous wheat producer, Warren suggests planting a cover crop to graze.
“I’m not a big fan of planting sorghum sudan if I’m going to just plant wheat back into the standing material, but if I want to run cattle on it, I’m going to have sorghum sudan out there because that’s a high forage-producing grass,” he says. “But if I just want to grow nitrogen, then I’m going to grow cowpeas.
“And if I want a little bit of both, then I’ll plant them both together.”
Warren says farmers need to know that planting a minor broadleaf species with a grass, such as cowpeas and sorghum sudan, will reduce the tonnage of material produced because the tonnage comes from the grass.
“If we want a big tonnage - sorghum sudan or something like pearl millet that’s going to grow a lot of biomass,” he says. “If you want smaller tonnage to just cover the ground, then you could go with like a German millet.”
Warren says planting a summer cover crop can also have a positive effect on soil health.
“I grew up flipping dirt in western Oklahoma, and I look around at all these soils where we’re flipping dirt, and they’ve been severely damaged. I mean we’ve plowed two feet into the soil in some cases from erosion,” he says. “Where we’re no-tilling it, we’re seeing tremendous improvements in the organic matter and biological activity, and therefore, the productivity of those soils.
“And a lot of that productivity comes from our willingness to plant a summer crop.”
Warren says the key to soil health is “finding a productive, economically viable rotation.”
Ron Hays talked with Dr. Warren during the Lahoma Wheat Field Day last week. Click on the LISTEN BAR below to learn more about choosing and integrating cover crops into a no-till rotation.
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