19 Hours Ago
I have another cover crop, regenerative ag meeting tomorrow. I seem to be a required element for anyone's meetings anymore.
Some salesmen coming tomorrow. I shall be on high alert for bullshittery!
I know this stuff gets boring as hell, but I learned another tid bit yesterday.
A common practice in organic farming, and one that I have mentioned before, mentioned that I was skeptical about but did not know why, is to plant yellow clover seed with your wheat seed in the spring.
Yellow clover seed does not germinate that first year, it is an every other year deal. Not quite sure why that is, but we do see it out on the prairie. One year or another will be a "clover" year. Damn stuff is everywhere....every other year.
Anyway, the idea is to plant a nitrogen fixing crop. It is supposed to provide nitrogen for the crop planted the year after the clover is terminated....plowed down with a heavy disc.
Also, it is supposed to increase organic matter in the soil. Makes sense right? Take a crap load of plant flesh and bury it.
The problems I have with the practice is that after June 15 the crop is to be terminated. That means that the "cover crop" is no longer covering anything. You just have to summer fallow it the rest of the year. With that you have all the regular problems of moisture loss, high soil temps, decreased soil biology, and erosion....both wind and water.
I was visiting with my uncle a while ago and he mentioned that they have not been seeing a protein boost in their organic wheat. He has been organic for 30 years or so and has been doing this yellow clover planting for many years.
Nitrogen in the soils, which is fixed by legumes or added with fertilizer, is what really makes protein in your wheat. Low protein wheat is severely discounted.
So I asked my NRCS man about it.
He explained to me that planting yellow clover or peas with the idea of plowing it down early is actually decreasing the plant available nitrogen in the soil.
WAT? I says!
Apparently when you plow a crop like that down it causes most of the plant matter to be converted to nitrogen in 20 days. That huge boost in plant matter causes the underground biology to go into over drive converting the biomass into plant available nitrogen. Once that occours other plants and bacteria go into over drive consuming that nitrogen.
When they have all of that used up, they turn to other sources of nitrogen in the soil for food. The end result is that you end up with less nitrogen that when you started.
The only way to store that nitrogen boost for another cash crop planted in the fall or next spring would be to plant a nitrogen scavenging plant to capture and hold that nitrogen. Something that very few producers do.
Another problem with having a crap load of plant available nitrogen just sitting in the soil is that it is also available for leaching and volitization. If no plants are there to hold the nitrogen, it just washes or evaporates away.
The solution is a catch crop, like radishes or turnips, or you could leave that crop of clover standing so that it breaks down more slowly.
A better idea is to plant a full season, diverse cover crop and leave the damn thing alone.