The proof of cover crops is in the worms

Peninsula Pride Farms hosted a Conservation Conversation on Sept. 28 at Augustian Farms. Aaron Augustian and Nick Guilette shared the results of how the corn performed in a no-till field that was planted green. Augustian said that earlier in the year they had germination issues with uneven corn plants, but as the year went on it did not affect yields.

The corn field on display was previously four-year-old alfalfa, which was terminated in fall 2020. Augustian then came in with a no-till drill and planted a multi-species cover crop of radishes, turnips, clover and winter rye. Throughout the fall and winter the farm applied sand-laden manure and liquid manure. They follow a nutrient management plan to meet their fertilizer needs with manure as the main source of nutrients.

Augustian shared some of the struggles the farm had with planting corn green with a regular corn planter. He has plans to enhance the corn planter for next year as he wants to continue doing no-till planting.

Augustian is also noticing he is saving on fuel costs with the switch to no-till planting green.

“Last year at the end of the year we had a little over 25 percent left that we didn’t use. We didn’t chisel plow every acre, we didn’t harrow every acre twice, three times. Holy cow when you see that fuel savings by not running over this land an extra three or four times with that big equipment, it’s pretty eye-opening,” he said.  

Guilette focused on the benefits in the soil health aspects of planting green. He showed how the soil displays past roots which helps hold the soil together. There are also a lot of earth worms going through the soil profile which in turn helps the corn roots explore and utilize more nutrients.

The group agreed that the evidence is out on the cover crops by the count of earth worms present in no-till fields. Guilette said five years ago in one spade shovel there were no worms, now it is more like 10 to 15.

Overall, Augustian is happy with the results he is seeing from implementing no-till planting green, and he plans to continue these practices. This year the farm is 100 percent no-till on their owned land.  

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