Dodge County Farmers (DCF) held their annual cover crop showcase focused on a variety of cover crop plots and a rain fall simulator. This educational event was hosted by DCF member, Dale Macheel of Macheel Farms, including presentations by NRCS and Byron Seeds. The plot included mixes developed across the Unites States and Europe. The rainfall simulator demonstrated the water infiltration in a tilled soil sample and a grass cover sample.
The field was previously wheat and high diversity cover crop mixes were planted the first week of August. Brendon Blank, DCF member and Byron Seeds representative, led the walk through the plot and highlighted the benefits of each group of cover crop species. Some of the cover crop mixes had around a dozen different species in them.
“Different roots structures mean that every plant species has a different ability to extract nutrients from the soil,” said Blank.
Brendon explained that legumes are used to retain fixated nitrogen in the nodes before planting corn the following year. Cover crops with large biomass and root structures are used to combat compaction. Cover crops with tall, stiff stems are used to collect snow in the winter to be used as moisture when the temperature rises in the spring. Cover crops mixes that have lots of biomass in the leaf size and shape can grow a strong canopy that prevents unwanted weeds from emerging and growing. Flowering cover crops attract new, beneficial insects to the field to increase pollination as well. Matching the seed mix to the goals you have on your farm is critical to see desired results.
NRCS presented a rainfall simulator on a tilled soil sample and a grass cover sample. Water was applied to the soil and collected as it filtrated. The tilled sample had 1.5 times more water collected after the demonstration. This showcased the purpose of using a cover crop for water and nutrient retention, along with reduced erosion. The other goals of cover crops might include increasing biodiversity, reducing soil compaction, and weed suppression.