Successful No-Till Alfalfa on Clay Soils

By Nate Severy, Agronomy Outreach Professional

This year there were a number of farmers who no-tilled alfalfa in clay and silty soils throughout Addison County.  While this was a difficult year for good alfalfa establishment due to our dry, hot weather, all of the no-till alfalfa farmers had successful stands.

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Below is a summary of what these farmers did that contributed to their success:

All farms planted during a “window of opportunity”.  While all farms managed their fields differently, there are generally 3 times through the year where there is a “window of opportunity” in which you can successfully plant alfalfa into your cover crop.  These are: early April before green-up, mid-late May immediately after harvesting your cover crop for forage, or August after you combine and harvest grain and straw.  One positive aspect about no-till seeding is that in the spring only the top inch of soil needs to be dry in order to plant, as opposed to the entire plow layer with conventional field prep.  This means you can seed much earlier in the spring without the risk of turning your clay soil into moon rocks.

All farms fertilized, prepared good/level seedbeds, and planted a cover crop last fall after short-season corn silage.  Cover crop planting dates ranged from early September to the beginning of October.  If you are planning on harvesting your winter rye/triticale/wheat as forage, the earlier you can plant in September, the better your spring yield will be.  That means you will want to make sure you plant a corn silage variety that can be harvested early enough that you have adequate time to prepare a proper seedbed.  If you do not want to harvest forage from the cover crop, either plant at a lighter rate or plant a mix that has a winter cereal with a winter-kill crop like oats or radishes.

All farms planted at the proper seeding depth.  For winter cereal grains, planting depth should be between 1-1 ½ inches, which means you need to plant with a grain drill.  Broadcasting and lightly tilling it (followed by a roller) can work, but there is a very fine line between incorporating your seed and burying it.  Broadcasting and only going over the field with rollers is not recommended.  The seeding depth for alfalfa should be between ¼ to ½ an inch.  Most farms used a grain drill, but it is possible to broadcast your seed if you “aggressively scratch” the field before seeding and pack it several times afterwards.

All farms planted alfalfa into a low-competition environment.  Some farms planted into their cover crops in mid-April before there was much spring growth, a farmer planted his alfalfa in May after harvesting the cover crop as forage, and a few farms planted alfalfa in April, spraying and killing their cover crop immediately afterwards.  You can have good alfalfa establishment in a thick cover crop/nurse crop, but you will have less first-year alfalfa yield when compared to a light cover crop/nurse crop.

Three farms successfully frost seeded 5lb/ac red clover in March into their cover crops.  Frost seeding can be an effective way to introduce crops into fields.  However, you need three things to happen perfectly: very small seeds, soil that will freeze-thaw, and bare ground.  These cover crop fields seemed to be good candidates for frost seeding 5lb/ac red clover in March, and by August you could definitely see where we did and did not frost seed.

Planting alfalfa and other hay crops is risky no matter the year.  Hopefully more farms try this method of seeding so we can learn more about the best way to establish and maintain this valuable crop.

No-till alfalfa being planted into a cover crop and corn residue
No-till alfalfa being planted into a cover crop and corn residue

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Do you have questions about this work or would like assistance with no-till alfalfa? Contact Nate [802-388-4969 ext. 348, nathaniel.severy@uvm.edu]

 

Upcoming Crop Field Days!

Join us for two upcoming events looking at cropping systems in Addison and Rutland County.

 

  • August 26th 11 am – 2 pm:

    Corn Variety Trial Demonstration. We will be looking at a whole series of corn silage varieties planted side-by-side to examine development and potential for earlier harvest for better establishment ofCorn a cover crop. We will also have time after lunch to see other cover crop/no-till fields. This event is FREE and THERE WILL BE A CATERED LUNCH. Yes, you read that right, free catered lunch! So grab your farm friends and get excited (hopefully) for short(er) season corn. More information can be found on our flyer: Corn Trial Field Day 8-26-16, or by contacting Kirsten Workman [kirsten.workman@uvm.edu, 802-388-4969 x 347]. Vorsteveld Farm, 3925 Panton Rd. Panton, VT

    Special thanks to Crop Production Services for providing lunch.

  • August 30th, 12 – 2 pm:

    Crop Patrol in the Southern Champlain Valley. Join us CropPatroland the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition as we ‘tour’ neighboring fields to look at no-till corn, alfalfa and annual ryegrass. The event will begin at Dorset Peak Jerseys, in Danby, VT – 468 Danby Mt. Rd. More information can be found on our flyer: crop patrol 8-30-16, or by contacting Rico Balzano [rico.balzano@uvm.edu, 802-388-4969 x 338]. This event is free.

 

 

University of Vermont Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status. To request a disability related accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Karen Gallott at (802) 388-4969 or 1-800-956-1125 (toll-free in Vt. only) by August 22, 2016 (first event) and August 27, 2016 (second event).

In the News and Around the Town

Lately we’ve been busy bees (particularly Kirsten Workman!) and have found ourselves on Across the Fence as well as NPR.  Here are some links where you can see and hear more about what we are up to!

http://digital.vpr.net/post/farmers-embrace-cover-crops-improve-soil-reduce-runoff#stream/0

http://digital.vpr.net/post/no-till-tell-all#stream/0

 

 

 

 

2016 No-Till and Cover Crop Symposium

Our 3rd Annual No-Till & Cover Crops Symposium:

Our symposium has come and gone but you can find information about it below, including proceedings, links and presentations.

See you next February! Thank you to all our speakers and participants for a great symposium!

Please respect primary authorship of presentations and research.

NTCC2016

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Check out our proceedings, full of useful information from our speakers.

–> NTCC Proceedings_2016

 Guest Speakers:

  • John Kemmeren, a NY dairymen with 40 years of no-till experience on his 200 head dairy farm. He will share successes and challenges of no-till and cover cropping.
  • Dr. Kevin Bradley, associate professor and extension weed scientist at the University of Missouri. He will share his perspectives on how cover crops, herbicides, and good weed control can work in a no-till system.

More information about Dr. Bradley’s research can be found at:  http://plantsci.missouri.edu/faculty/bradley.cfm  and   http://weedscience.missouri.edu/

  • Odette Menard, a soil conservation honoree and employee in Quebec’s Ministry of Agriculture will share her insight into helping farmers identify strategies to build soil health, increase yields, improve economics, and reduce erosion.

Other speakers and facilitators from UVM Extension:

As with previous years, we will also have a great panel discussion:
* Mark Anderson, Land View Farms * Kevin Kocsak, Salem Farm Supply *Larry Gervais, Gervais Family Farm * Brad Thomas, Jillian Holsteins *

The UVM Extension’s Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture Team & the Northwest Crops & Soils Program invited all farmers and technical advisers to attend this event dedicated to No-Till and Cover Cropping systems for field crop growers in our area.

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Thank You to Our Sponsors!!!

Platinum Sponsor:

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Gold Sponsors:

Caring Dairy

Champlain Valley Equipment

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Silver Sponsors:

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____________________________________________

Bronze Sponsors:

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Scott Magnan’s Custom Service

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Thank You to Our Other Supporting Organizations:

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                                   Conservation Innovation Grant

USDA NIFA LogoUSDA NRCS

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VAAFM

UVM EXT

3rd Annual No-Till and Cover Crop Symposium

NTCC2016Join Us For This Great Event Full of Useful Information For Your Farm!

February 17th at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center, Burlington, VT

Registration is now open for this event. We have a day filled with guest speakers and professionals from around the state, country and also Quebec. Speakers will be addressing soil health, herbicides, cover crop research and demonstration trials, no-till successes and challenges, economics and soil conservation.

All the information about this event can be found on our 2016 Symposium Page.

You can register online here.

To view the pdf brochure of the event: NTCC Brochure 2016

We are still accepting sponsors! 2016 Sponsor and Exhibitor Form

Questions? Feel free to contact us! [802-388-4969, cvcrops@uvm.edu]

Spring 2015, Soil Health Field Day

Soil Health Field Day Flyer_Hoorman 2015The snow is melting, the sap is flowing (hopefully), and the crew at CV Crops is dreaming of spring!

Join us for our Spring 2015 Soil Health Field Day

April 21st, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

We will be hosting Jim Hoorman, from Ohio State University Extension (PhD candidate and farmer), to discuss:SoilHealth

  • The Biology of Soil Compaction
  • Using Cover Crops to Keep Phosphorus Out of Surface Water
  • Economics of Cover Crops & Weed Suppression

    Soil Health Field Day Flyer_Hoorman 2015_Page_1

 (click on the picture above to view the pdf)

We will meet at the American Legion, have a hot lunch, and then head out to the field to visit Vander Wey’s Nea-Tocht Farm. If you are a farmer, you can attend this field day FOR FREE, due to the generous contributions of Caring Dairy and the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition.

Service professions are welcome to attend, there will be a $30 fee. Five CCA credits available from this event.

Either way, we request that you register.

You may do so by either calling us at (802) 388-4969, or by registering online: https://www.regonline.com/soilhealth

 

New Across the Fence Video

The 2015 No-Till and Cover Crop Symposium was featured recently on Across the Fence!

The t.v. segment also features Kirsten Workman and Jeff Sanders discussing research, trials, and use of both cover crops and no-till in Vermont.

Check out the video HERE!

Interested in trying a new practice on your farm this coming year?  We are happy to help you determine the best fit for your farm!

Contact Us!

 

 

2015 No-Till and Cover Crop Symposium

Thursday, February 19, 2015

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Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center   |   Burlington, VT

Miss the Symposium? You can still learn about the information presented:

2015 NTCC Proceedings

THE CONFERENCE BROCHURE

Check out this awesome Across the Fence Video, that was shot at the symposium, and in the studio with Kirsten Workman and Jeff Sanders.

To view PDFs of the individual presentations, click on the links below.

Speakers Included:

  • John Koepke and his family own and operate a 350 cow dairy farm in SE Wisconsin. They are 2011 Leopold Conservation Award Winners and 2011 Dairy Men of the Year and have been no-tillers for more than 25 years: John Koepke’s Presentation
  • Gerard Troisi is crop advisor/production consultant since 1991, consulting on 24,000 acres in central PA.  He works with operators who no-till or are transitioning, and is skilled at increasing production on marginal soils while reducing input costs and adjusting production practices: Gerard Troisi’s Presentation
  • Lucas Criswell and his father farm in the hills of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in central Pennsylvania. They have been no tilling for over 30 years and now utilize high residue cover crops: Lucas Criswell’s Presentation
  • Pierre-Olivier Gaucher is the owner of Terralis & convened a consortium of Canadian farmers who are changing their cropping techniques to improve soil health.  They developed a crop rotation to include cover crops, winter cereals and interseeding in corn: Pierre-Olivier Gaucher’s Presentation, Pierre-OLivier Gaucher’s Video
  • Heather Darby, UVM Extension Agronomist: Heather Darby’s Presentation
  • Kirsten Workman, UVM Extension: Kirsten Workman’s Presentation
  • VERMONT FARMER PANELISTS:
    • Richard Hall, Fairmont Farms (E. Montpelier): Richard Hall’s Presentation
    • Ron & Chad Machia,  Machia & Sons (Sheldon)
    • Shawn Gingue, Gingue Bros. Dairy (Fairfax)
    • Scott Magnan, Custom Service (St. Albans)
    • Gerard Vorsteveld, Vorsteveld Farm (Panton)
 (Please respect the pdfs as original content).

 Thank you to our 2015 Sponsors:

mansfield_LOGO_2000

CVE LogoCaring Dairymatts truckingCVFC_color_round_croppedusda rma underneathVAAFM

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champlain.crops@uvm.edu | (802) 388-4969