Showing posts from February, 2021

Making CRP Productive Cropland

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres are fields that private landowners put into conservation for 10-15 years to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and/or to improve the environment. Landowners are paid an annual government rental payment in exchange for keeping acres in permanent vegetation. In 2020, Ohio had about 49,300 acres of expiring CRP acreage with about 34.7% or 17,123 acres that went back into crop production. Indiana had about 98,700 acres expire and 34.6% or 34,200 acres converted to crop production. High grain prices tend to cause more CRP acres to leave while low grain prices increase CRP sign up. Landowners usually put their worst performing or “worn out” cropland into CRP. Some land is Highly Erodible Land (HEL) with severe soil erosion, poorly drained, or just hard to farm. These fields tend to have low soil fertility, poor soil structure, poor soil health, and overall low crop productivity. On hilly land; gully erosion, lost topsoil, and exposed subsoil

Manure and Cover Crops

Many livestock farmers who are being compensated by the H2O Ohio program may be looking for guidance on planting cover crops. NRCS Appendix A (Cover Crops) is your best guide for cover crop seeding methods, planting dates, and planting rates. Contact your local Soil and Water Conservation office or local NRCS representative for additional questions. What should your cover crop accomplish if you are applying fall manure? First, a live plant that survives the winter and absorbs nitrogen, phosphorus, and reduces soil erosion. Fibrous fine roots systems are better than tap roots which may allow manure nutrients to leach into tile or surface water. The cover crop should be easy to kill, and it’s a bonus if it can be used for forage (but not allowed under the H2O Ohio program rules). Generally, grass cover crops with fibrous fine roots absorb manure nutrients the best. Legumes and clovers make their own nitrogen and readily absorb free nutrients but are generally a little less efficient at a

Improving Fertilizer Availability

As fertilizer costs increase, farmers want to either lower their fertilizer costs or find ways to conserve soil nutrients. Cover crops can help do both things. Legumes and clovers sequester nitrogen (N) and grasses and radishes make phosphorus (P) more available. Most conventional soil tests measure inorganic soil nutrients but are less reliable accounting for organic or carbonbased plant nutrients. As soil health improves, nutrient availability and nutrient efficiency generally improves due to higher soil microbial activity. Manure improves soil health and soil organic matter (SOM). Solid chicken manure is high in N, P, and calcium. Liquid manures (hog and dairy) can be major sources of nutrients but have a high-water content (dairy, 98% water; hog, 95% water) and with high transportation costs, can be more expensive. Composting solid manure tends to concentrate available nutrients because as manure decomposes, the volume generally reduces to about a third of the original volume. Good