Cover Crops

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Slide show, above, of planting cover crop August 20, 2013 at Dave Krapfl’s farm.

Cover crop demo plot at Dave Krapfl farm

(Oct. 2013)

Turnip. Radish. Winter peas.

Not the usual cover crop.

A small field west of New Vienna, planted in these and more traditional cover crops will demonstrate their use, benefits or drawbacks through next spring for North Maquoketa watershed producers

In late August, Dave Krapfl, New Vienna, and Three Rivers FS teamed to create the demonstration plot on a newly harvested field of oats. Dave had been mulling a trial or demonstration plot and when some new Mississippi River Basin Initiative cost share money and Heartland Regional Water Initiative funding became available he worked on a plan with Chris Datisman of Three Rivers.

Three Rivers planned the demonstration layout and provided and packaged the seed, including a hard-to-get seed from Ungs in Luxembourg. On August 20, Dave, Chris and Wayne Brunsman, a North Fork producer and cover crop fan, planted eight different cover crop combinations in the field.

The eight demo strips are: 1) Rye, crimson clover and radish, termed a nutria-builder, 2) crimson cover, a combo of crimson clover and radish, 3) ground breaker, composed of Austrian winter peas and radish, 4) forage mix of winter rye, oats and turnips, 5) Austrian peas, 6) radish, 7) turnip and 8) annual rye grass.

“We are basically trying to show (producers) what they can do (with cover crops),” said Datisman.

Planting was a little different from normal, too, with a portable vacuum on hand to clean out the planter boxes after each pass to prevent contamination of plots. Each plot is about 0.2 acres – one two-way trip each for each with the planter.

Dave’s reason for trying cover crops was simple: “I just decided that erosion on bare ground was so severe that I said, ‘That’s it.” He tried oats in 2012 and fall rye for forage. This last spring he planted oats using a borrowed drill, until he found a used unit before planting the trials. In addition to the trials he planted 20 acres of crimson clover and turnips he plans to harvest yet this fall.

With some opportune rains after the planting, the cover crops look excellent, says Dave. The trial plots have small descriptive signs posted and Dave says he is planning a fall field day at the site.

Below, the cover crop plots on Oct. 15, 2013.

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