Just back from a few hours of seeding cover crops at our test site on the University of Minnesota's Research and Outreach Station in Rosemount, MN. Once again, we're collaborating with Prof. Scotty Wells, who has a number of other cover crop studies underway. This is also part of the New Agricultural Bioeconomy project at the U of MN, which has received funding from the U's MnDRIVE initiative.
With this study, we are testing the impact of planting date on cover crop biomass. Why? Well, it's tough to get a successful cover crop following corn if one waits until after harvest, which may occur just before the snow starts to fly. Being able to get the cover crop established at the end of the summer or early fall helps it get established well before the onset of winter. The ROWBOT way, so to speak, is to get in when corn is mature and lay down cover crop in a best-of-class broadcast application. This study is designed to confirm what is logical: an earlier planting date should yield a more robust cover crop with more biomass, which is a decent proxy for the soil health benefits provided by cover crops.
We planted a round of plots today (9/15), and another set of plots two weeks ago (9/1). There will be one more planting date around the middle of October. Last year's initial study, while not as rigorous as this year's, suggested that less biomass results from later planting dates. That makes sense, and it is the reason we're working hard to commercialize the ROWBOT technology so that we can seed cover crops on millions of acres long before corn is harvested!
Check out the photos from today of the cover crops seeded two weeks ago. Note that there were a few rain events after planting (over one inch on 9/6 and another half inch on 9/7).