Dan's Blog on Conservation:

Plant it   2/16/18

Because of the late harvest last year, a lot of cover crops didn’t get planted. Depending on how its stored and its origin, the seed may not germinate well if its left in the bag or hopper for another year.

You can leave it stored, or…you can sow it this spring. No, it won’t do as much good as it would have if you got it on last September. But if you get it on soon, it will give you about 60 days of growth -feeding soil organism, trapping nutrients, improving organic matter and infiltration, controlling erosion, etc. 

Spring planted wheat, cereal rye and triticale and fall barley will typically not set a seed head. These plants need to vernalize, that is –“chill”- to trigger flowering.

The up side when spring planted is, you don’t have to worry about the plant going to seed and the growth will not be as aggressive. The downside is, the plant won’t go to seed and growth will not be very aggressive.

If you have the choice between leaving your cover crop in a bag or bin where it won’t do you any good or planting it for some good, the choice is obvious.

Plant it - as soon as you can get it on. Call if we can help.


Stanky Radish 1/11/18

When soil temp warms up over 35 degrees, organisms will awake and want to feed. Those frozen dead radishes full of sugars and other trapped elements which bacteria, protozoa, arthropods and worms crave will be the first target. The feeding will commence as long as the temps allow and in the process, the sulfur trapped by the radish will volatilize. It’s the same stinky smell added to natural gas and propane to warn you of a leak. If you planted radish in your cover crop mix, let your neighbors and fire department know what will be coming. Most of the time the smell is not a big deal. Sometimes, though,…it is.

Fulton County’s ag producers who want to address resource concerns on their ag lands are encouraged to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through USDA-NRCS at 1252 E 100 S Rochester, IN.

Dan Rosswurm, District Conservationist, announced applications will be taken for 2018 through December 15, 2017. “While we take EQIP applications all year, apps received after December 15 will be considered in later rounds. I encourage producers with resource concerns on their lands to submit applications by the deadline.”

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program. Through EQIP, the Natural Resources Conservation Service provides financial and technical assistance to install practices which reduce soil erosion/sedimentation, improve soil health, water and air quality and create wildlife and pollinator habitat.

Contact Rosswurm at the office phone 574-223-3220, mobile phone 317-373-2331 or email dan.rosswurm@in.usda.gov


Learn from your feet 10/6/17

The heat inlate September took the early corn to black layer i.e. it stopped growing and taking up nutrients. At this point we take stalk samples for those who are enrolled in INField Advantage – the Indiana State Dept. of Ag’s program to measure nitrogen usage. The intention is to give farmers data they can use to determine efficient nitrogen application rates. Any left over N is either lost to the atmosphere or flows with water into tile lines ultimately ending up in the Gulf of Mexico feeding the water plants which contribute to hypoxia.

Of the 35 fields in the program, we sampled 20 this week. We walked more than ten miles through standing corn, masked and carrying equipment.  I won’t lie to ya…my dogs is tired! (I’m thankful for the rain and the weekend so this old man canrest up.)

Samples are then sent to a lab for analysis.  The data will be presented to farmers later this winter.

Your feet can tell you a lot about soil management. The toughest fields to walk through are the tilled sandy/gravelly fields. Tillage destroys soil structure. The holes which allow air and water into a soil are gone. You’d think it would be hard, but no, the top is fluffy at least till you sink to the compaction layer. That’s what makes it tough to walk through. Every step counts for about two.

The easiest fields to walk through are the fields with cover crops growing under no-tilled corn. The soil organisms fed by root exudates from cover crops have recreated the soil’s natural structure and the aerially seeded cover crop provides floatation. The soil is firm and full of night crawler middens. The lower corn leaves are jagged on the ends where the worms have dragged them into holes for lunch.



Sow Milkweed  9/5/17

Our latitude and further north is the home of the third and maybe the fourth generation of monarch butterflies. These are the adults which fly back to overwinter in Mexico each year. Our area supplies the monarch with its egg laying and larva feeding plant and nectar for energy plants.

Every monarch begins is life on a milkweed. There are four milkweeds indigenous to Fulton Co. The most prevalent is the Common milkweed Asclepias syriaca. If you pay attention you’ll see these pod bearers on roadsides and ditch banks. Where you won’t see them is in crop land.

Most cash crops are herbicide tolerant and milkweed is not. Milkweed is rhizomatous meaning it snakes along underground then sends a stalk up a few feet from the seed-started main stem. The stems you see within 25 ft may all be the same plant. The rhizomes allow it survive tillage. For the same reason, glyphosate is a death to it.

I’m not asking you to change your cash cropping. I am asking you to realize the impact of glyphosate tolerant cash crops and establish milkweed in the odd uncropped areas of your farm to provide habitat for the Monarch and other important pollinators.

Even though the soybean is self-pollinating, yields will improve when insects enhance pollination.

Here in a couple weeks milkweed pods will crack open. Pull them off the stalks and disperse the winged seed into those odd areas. Then next summer when you see the Monarch busily fluttering from flower to flower you’ll know you done good.



Fulton County SWCD  (574) 223-3220 ext. 3