Dan's Blog on Conservation:

World Soils Day

December 5 is World Soils Day. This is an international event sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

What does all this mean in Fulton Co, Indiana? Yes, World Soils Day does apply here, because… we’re part of the world and we are doing our part.

Based on our recently completed transect, very little cropland was tilled this fall. That means the soil organisms were not stimulated to respire mass quantities of carbon dioxide. On nine percent of the cropland, (about 15, 000 ac) annually planted cover crops are trapping nutrients, feeding soil organisms and converting that carbon dioxide into organic matter thru photosynthesis for next year’s crop.

There are planned events around the US that don’t have much to do with us here in north central Indiana. To bring this a little closer to home, I have a suggestion.

On the evening of December 5, go out to have a glass or mug of your preferred beverage. In winter, I like mine about the color and viscosity of used motoroil. If somebody asks you why you’re there, tell them – “I’m celebrating World Soils Day with one of my favorite products of the soil.” That should start a conversation.

As always,call me if you want to talk about soil health 574-223-3220.


Catching Up - 11/28/18

From all indications, the inter-seeding experiment failed. Shade and herbicide residual both work against it. We had cover into August but by harvest, no sign of anything.  I had expected red clover to survive.

Lack of light in late summer is probably the main reason it failed. How to improve light getting to the soil under a growing corn crop?? Early hybrids with upright leaf configuration would help.  Wider rows would also help.  If anyone is interested in playing with wide rows with cover crops inter-seeded below, please let me know. All we’d need to experiment is a chunk of headland. I plan on planting the same amount of seed in half the rows in my sweetcorn next year then inter-seed with a mix of warm and cool covers to help me understand the potential of the system.

The fall transect showed about 9% of cropland with an annually planted cover crop, or about 15,000 acres. I know of several new users who planted a large acreage, but the transect did not show an increase over the last few years. Thank you… to all of you who use covers on your cropland.

The tour of Lake Manitou Watershed didn’t reveal any surprises.  DNR will write the needed scope of services for the watershed diagnostic study and then bids will be solicited to complete the study. We had very good adoption of cover crops from new users within the watershed and sustained usage from long time users. This trend needs to continue and improve to keep the phosphorus growing crops and not in Lake Manitou.

Pit Closure11/1/18

USDA just finished an emergency closure of an animal waste facility. The pit is no longer a human nor environmental hazard. The sludge was tested and safely applied to cropland as fertilizer.

There are other unused/abandoned hog houses with pits under them out there which present the same potential threats as did this one. If you have one of these, please make an appointment to talk to me. The Natural Resources Conservation Service can help technically and financially. Call NRCS at 574-223-3220 ext 3.

Cover CropTransect   10/25/18

Harvest isin the final stages. There is still time to get a cover crop of cereal rye planted to trap nitrogen and carbon dioxide which is converted to organic matter. Plant cereal rye at one bushel per acre or thicker if you want better weed control.

If you’ve noticed problems on your land during harvest that you wish to address, please call me. Together we’ll look over the problem, determine a course of action and evaluate programs which could assist with a solution. Please give me a call at 574-223-3220 ext. 3.

We will conduct a formal fall transect to statistically determine the amount of cover cropping in the county. We’ll get that done around December 1 to allow time for all the late planted cover crops to emerge. If you’re curious about the prevalence of cover cropping and want to spend a couple days helping, we’ll be glad to have your assistance.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, weather has allowed for more post- harvest cover crop planting. I will not be surprised if the transect shows an increase over 2017.

I’ve done some digging in fields planted to radish. They do a good job penetrating compacted layers. On a field following beans, the radish tubers were about half an inch wide with a tap root which bored through two compacted layers and into a third about 9 inches down. Worm activity around these roots is always good. By spring, they’ll have the roots and stems completely consumed and pooped into usable plant food.


Interseeding at V5 6/8/18

In the latitudes north of the 40th parallel, inter-seeding covers into standing corn at the fifth collared leaf stage holds promise.

The Fulton SWCD is experimenting at five diverse soils locations to see if it might work here. In two locations we have or will sow plots of ladino, crimson, mediumred, yellow sweet clovers and hairy vetch.

In the others, we sowed annual ryegrass and crimson clover.

This “oldcrank” broadcasted the seed with my dad’s canvass bagged crank seeder.

I seeded one of the plots on June 1.  I checked there today and found the clovers to be sprouting.

The intention is to get a crop started under the canopy ready to pop after the cash crop dries down and allows light back to the soil surface. We learned last year that early corn with an upright leaf configuration will allow more light onto the surface earlier than a later down cast variety.

Herbicides are the biggest limitation. Residuals are being used more frequently these days to control glyphosate resistant weeds. They’re usually active, depending on the rate, at the V5 leaf stage which precludes inter-seeding. We have a variety of areas sown so we’ll be able to relate what we’ve found.

If you are new at cover cropping, the Fulton SWCD will help you offset some risks. Contact Lois Mann 574-223-3220.

Lessons 4/16/18

Lessons learned the hard way are not easy nor cheap.

The difference in the success of aerially applied annual ryegrass cover crop in a field with two different corn maturities is stark. The annual ryegrass is green and flush in the earlier corn and not present in the later corn.

Conclusion:The leaves of the early variety died back allowing more light to reach the sprouted annual ryegrass. The dense coverage of the long season corn variety did not allow sunlight to penetrate to ground level. The annual ryegrass sprouted and died.

Lesson: concentrate your aerial seeding on your earlier corn varieties and choose your corn variety numbers based on maturity and leaf configuration where you want to aerially seed cover crops.



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