Seven Years of Cover Crops in Rotations

A cover crop rotations study was conducted to determine if Coastal Plains soils could meet the challenge of cash cropping most seasons while also advancing soil organic matter and cation exchange capacity.

The rotations were Sudex-Rye-Soybean-Rye-Corn-Rye-Soybean-Wheat-Corn-Rye-Sudex-WheatAlfalfa. Soil organic matter remained unchanged the first three years but started to rise in year four. By year seven, soil organic matter had increased by 40 percent. Soil cation exchange capacity increased by 50 percent during the study period.

Soil Organic Matter vs CEC

USDA NE-SARE Cover Crop Rotations Study Results

Farm Calls: Tillage Tools for “Breaking Ground”

A young farmer in North Jersey gave a call this season to ask if we could swing by a take a look at some land he wanted to bring into production. We arrived to find a worst-case scenario: an old pasture on heavy silt loam soil with densely rooted sod clumps – the ground had not been tilled or mowed in two decades. In addition, there was no plan for a burndown herbicide application since the grower follows organic practices.

New Jersey Ag Agents often field calls like this from beginning farmers with small acreage and urban ag market gardeners who need to perform primary tillage, i.e., break ground for the first time. Working with a limited budget, they face the daunting task of opening up an old pasture like our farmer’s, or soils that are compacted and abandoned. These sites share a common problem. They are too small to bring in a 25-35hp tractor and tillage implements, yet far too large to dig and turn the soil over by hand – even with plenty of volunteers.

Primary tillage using a walk-behind two-wheeled tractor.

Tillage using a walk-behind two-wheeled tractor.

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