Nebraska Cover Crop & Soil Health Conference - Ray Ward
The 2019 Nebraska Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference featured innovative speakers who have worked with cover crops extensively and shared what they have learned. There are many benefits to utilizing cover crops, such as improved soil heath and reduced erosion. It is the details of how and what to do that can present challenges. The focus of the conference was to provide information to growers who are in a corn/soybean rotation and to assist them in understanding the value of cover crops.
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[00:00:30.470]Next up, we have Ray Ward,
[00:00:31.970]coming at us from Kearney.
[00:00:33.040]Ray and I crossed paths several times
[00:00:35.010]and similar backgrounds with Case state
[00:00:36.790]and South Dakota state.
[00:00:39.020]Looking forward to his presentation on
[00:00:40.420]how my farm has responded to cover crops and crop rotation.
[00:00:44.660]While we we're gettin' set up,
[00:00:45.610]just a reminder, at this same facility on June 18th
[00:00:49.520]here at MEED we will have a
[00:00:51.480]wheat and pulse crop field day.
[00:00:53.600]So, if you're interested in winter wheat and
[00:00:55.240]pulse crops in your rotation,
[00:00:56.960]we will have summer field day on that on June 18th here.
[00:00:59.630]So we'll try to follow up with the crowd on that.
[00:01:01.383]With that, looks like Ray's ready.
[00:01:03.670]Take 'er away.
[00:01:05.840]Appreciate it, Keith.
[00:01:07.310]Thank for inviting me to this presentation.
[00:01:11.915]And Jay, it's good to hear you talk this morning.
[00:01:14.050]And Dave, the talk.
[00:01:16.010]Now I have my tenants in the crowd,
[00:01:17.900]and my farm managers in the crowd,
[00:01:19.760]so I gotta be honest in what I say this afternoon.
[00:01:24.560]It's gonna be a little bit tough, probably.
[00:01:27.970]Thinking about that.
[00:01:29.170]I'm from Kearney, and that's Ward Laboratories.
[00:01:31.700]We moved to Kearny in 1983 but,
[00:01:34.290]my home is Western, down in Southern Saline county.
[00:01:40.540]Saline county's a little bit different than
[00:01:42.280]rest of Nebraska, some of you know that.
[00:01:45.300]The story I tell is, I have a soil survey book
[00:01:48.610]that was printed in '92 that give the yield of corn
[00:01:54.000]in 1889, in Saline county.
[00:01:56.850]1889, the average corn yield was 48 bushel.
[00:02:02.140]What kind of corn was growin' in the 1800's?
[00:02:06.740]Open pollinated varieties of corn.
[00:02:11.410]I graduated from high school 1955, from Western,
[00:02:16.130]and the average dryland corn yield in Saline county
[00:02:20.430]in 1955 was nine bushel.
[00:02:23.920]I hope a few of you remember those days.
[00:02:26.810]We had no money, because that was all the crop we produced,
[00:02:30.580]and that was because we were organic farmers.
[00:02:33.910]We grow sweet clover stock.
[00:02:36.330]And we grew some alfalfa,
[00:02:38.680]we pitched some manure out of the barn.
[00:02:40.860]At least I knew how to do that part.
[00:02:43.620]One time in Dodge city, we were getting a machine fixed and
[00:02:48.040]this old guy said the problem with college kids is
[00:02:50.460]they don't know how to pitch manure out of the barn.
[00:02:53.090]We looked at each other, I had three degrees,
[00:02:54.990]and the other guy had two degrees.
[00:02:57.040]We never said a word about college.
[00:03:03.680]I show this picture, because about four or five years ago
[00:03:08.560]we wanted to change what my dad built
[00:03:12.100]terraces in the early 60's,
[00:03:13.527]and he had these hairpin terraces up on top of the hill,
[00:03:17.490]and my tenant wanted to grow a 16 inch row of corn,
[00:03:20.380]or a planter, and if you did that,
[00:03:21.810]the end rows would be backin' up.
[00:03:24.352]So we leveled those, and then we put in tile drains
[00:03:26.950]so we could farm the waterways.
[00:03:32.000]The tile drain and the fixtures, or structure
[00:03:36.150]that Jay was talkin' about.
[00:03:39.730]We had the waterways, we had the terraces,
[00:03:41.450]we got lots of runoff.
[00:03:43.090]We got runoff here, 'cause this we actually did this,
[00:03:46.450]and we the tail leveled,
[00:03:49.107]we got one of those three, four inch reins.
[00:03:52.010]Only get in South Eastern 'Braska, no where else, I guess.
[00:03:56.370]And that's erosion,
[00:03:58.140]and that happened all the time when I was a kid.
[00:04:02.380]And we plowed things, and our big change on wheat growin',
[00:04:06.720]was going from moldboard plowing,
[00:04:08.580]in the early 60's we started disking instead.
[00:04:11.430]That was our big change in wheat production in those days.
[00:04:15.410]Just to talk a little bit about taking care of the soil,
[00:04:19.467]and the kind of soil type we have here.
[00:04:21.270]And this is...
[00:04:23.840]Crete silty clay loam eroded,
[00:04:26.656]that's what the soil survey calls it.
[00:04:29.870]And the Crete silty clay loam, and Crete silt loam soil,
[00:04:33.370]silty clay loam soils.
[00:04:36.360]The difference is, the silty clay loam soil is B horizon,
[00:04:40.730]so that's what we're farmin' here,
[00:04:42.720]is the B and C horizons, not the topsoil.
[00:04:46.200]And the topsoil is silt loam, and the sub soil's a clay,
[00:04:49.200]silty clay loam, or the B horizon.
[00:04:53.730]Permeability of that clay at B horizon is
[00:04:58.673].06 hundreds of an inch per hour.
[00:05:04.150]So when the profile gets full of water
[00:05:07.920]that means 10 hours, 6/10 of an inch would go through that,
[00:05:11.670]so it runs off.
[00:05:12.770]So we have to have structures, I think,
[00:05:14.560]protection of some kind to handle that water.
[00:05:16.140]And so what we do is we put these tile lines in to
[00:05:20.440]take the water down to the road ditch,
[00:05:23.640]so to speak, get rid of that.
[00:05:26.440]And I'm sorry, I don't have any figures on the cover crops.
[00:05:30.560]As we go through these, at the end,
[00:05:32.840]I'll show you some yields and that kind of thing.
[00:05:35.033]But that's the kind of soils we're workin' with.
[00:05:38.310]So I started no-till in '94 on our farm,
[00:05:43.640]and I'm the landlord, and so we're 50/50 lease,
[00:05:46.740]so I don't know what the costs are.
[00:05:50.040]I don't get involved in doing any of the work.
[00:05:53.760]Sometimes I see how long it takes to plant corn,
[00:05:58.230]and plant soybeans, I see how long it takes to harvest
[00:06:01.930]corn and soybeans.
[00:06:04.175]And the first I think of is what the hell else do you do?
[00:06:08.532]There's about a week and a half involved in farming a farm,
[00:06:12.660]from the maps that he shows me, and that kind of thing.
[00:06:15.940]So it must be pretty easy to do that hard work we did
[00:06:19.604]60, 70 years ago.
[00:06:23.240]And our soil resources prosperity and that's
[00:06:29.410]soil health basics is what I wanna talk about first.
[00:06:36.560]I started no-till to save water, was my first idea,
[00:06:40.390]because 1991, in Saline county where you grew no corn.
[00:06:44.670]The corn grew up really nice and tall,
[00:06:46.770]you got dry ended, and put on it.
[00:06:49.930]We need to figure out how to save the water.
[00:06:53.650]Well, when we did that, I found out we saved the soil.
[00:06:57.210]So those are my basics on no-till soil health is,
[00:07:01.510]we gotta save our resource,
[00:07:03.400]and when you think about the soil resource in Nebraska,
[00:07:06.780]compared to the world
[00:07:09.070]it's pretty amazing what we have here,
[00:07:11.207]and if we save it, in time we're gonna be able to
[00:07:14.613]produce a lot good, healthy food
[00:07:17.330]that would supply a lot of people.
[00:07:19.540]Because our soils are not contaminated,
[00:07:22.527]other than some farm chemicals.
[00:07:25.200]We don't have any industrial waste,
[00:07:26.777]and we don't, sorry to say, we don't have any oil
[00:07:29.670]to pollute the soil and all those things.
[00:07:31.974]So we got the soil to start with,
[00:07:34.400]that's really healthy to begin with.
[00:07:38.890]There's five basic principles that Jade talked about,
[00:07:41.180]and these are my examples of.
[00:07:43.070]And all these pictures are from my farm,
[00:07:46.260]down at Westard.
[00:07:48.380]Armor the soil, and then minimum soil disturbance.
[00:07:51.910]You can see the soybeans growin' in there,
[00:07:54.920]blend in the corn stocks.
[00:07:56.360]Diversify cropping, we've always had wheat in our rotation.
[00:08:03.297]Ever since dad bought the farm in '72,
[00:08:07.160]and then my sister and I inherited the farm in '83
[00:08:10.930]when my mother passed away, dad passed away in '79.
[00:08:14.220]Then I bought the farm from my sister in '92,
[00:08:18.210]and then got started in no-till farming in '94.
[00:08:21.350]So I've been doing these things.
[00:08:24.490]Living root in the soil at all times,
[00:08:26.380]and that's our cover crop to have this year
[00:08:29.140]on our wheat stubble.
[00:08:32.210]So then the livestock is the other part.
[00:08:34.960]And this is a earlier picture, and it's fun to see this,
[00:08:39.900]cows laying out there, full and happy,
[00:08:44.040]and the only thing I learned
[00:08:45.710]when we had the turnips out there,
[00:08:47.760]you didn't stand behind the cows,
[00:08:49.360]when they're up, standing up.
[00:08:52.950]But they were gentle.
[00:08:54.800]And then the other part of the livestock
[00:08:57.970]that Scott showed a lot of those pictures,
[00:09:00.240]but those worms in there, just amazing.
[00:09:03.400]When I was a kid we lived on Swan grid,
[00:09:05.060]we're on the Swan grid watershed.
[00:09:06.950]And we'd have a hard time finding worms
[00:09:08.740]so we could go fishing, and now I just go out in the field
[00:09:11.800]and dig a little bit, and you've got enough
[00:09:13.770]worms to go fishing.
[00:09:14.603]So it's really changed a lot.
[00:09:16.240]But look at all that gooey stuff around the outside
[00:09:19.840]of that worm is pretty wet,
[00:09:21.280]but it shows the other microbial activity
[00:09:24.300]that's going there with that.
[00:09:25.920]And here's a bacteria, fungi that are growing.
[00:09:30.650]Those are all important things,
[00:09:32.720]so that's the part that we forgot about is those microbes.
[00:09:40.240]Finally I figured out what the cover crop was for,
[00:09:43.730]about two weeks ago.
[00:09:46.890]We always worry as farmers how much growth we got,
[00:09:50.540]and as a farmer that's what we're taught, but
[00:09:52.480]what the cover crop is doin' is feeding those microbes.
[00:09:58.000]The more food they have, the more they're gonna grow,
[00:10:00.210]the more they're gonna aggregate the soil,
[00:10:03.410]for water intake, for oxygen intake, for all those things.
[00:10:07.000]And we have to figure out how to feed those better
[00:10:10.180]than what we've been doing.
[00:10:12.440]When you got bare soil on top, it's kinda like,
[00:10:16.470]feeding cow once a year, you take a hit,
[00:10:18.750]stack of hay out for the cows,
[00:10:20.090]they'll come back next year and feed you again.
[00:10:22.845]So you do that tillage, put the carbon in the soil,
[00:10:27.325]next year I'll give you some more,
[00:10:29.250]and you can expect that to live.
[00:10:31.120]And so those are the kind of things to think about.
[00:10:33.010]Here's some fungi that you can see visibly,
[00:10:37.450]micro rises you need a microscope to see it,
[00:10:40.430]but that gives you an idea of what to look at in the soil.
[00:10:43.800]And so we started the no-till thing, got started in '94,
[00:10:50.300]so you had to have a wheat, corn, bean rotation.
[00:10:53.900]And then I'd go down to the meetings, and guys would say
[00:10:58.760]you have to have a stacked rotation.
[00:11:00.840]Well, what in the heck is a stacked rotation?
[00:11:03.110]Well, you have to grow wheat, wheat,
[00:11:04.310]corn, corn, beans, beans.
[00:11:06.020]So you're four years out of that crop.
[00:11:08.370]And then these are always at night at the bar,
[00:11:13.070]you know how we do those things.
[00:11:16.400]Then we had to plant cover crops.
[00:11:23.540]Well, what's a cover crop?
[00:11:24.373]Oh, you plant something when nothing else is growing.
[00:11:29.114]So then I copied that, and the first
[00:11:31.850]thing we did was turnips.
[00:11:34.184]And I remember the first year we tried turnips,
[00:11:36.620]Doyle, the farm manager, I said,
[00:11:38.797]"Do you think it's gonna rain?"
[00:11:40.180]It was 2002, I'm pretty sure is what it was.
[00:11:43.170]And he said, "Yeah, it'll rain sometime."
[00:11:44.840]Well, the turnips did, they come up the next spring.
[00:11:50.670]But we started with turnips, growin' those.
[00:11:54.310]And we had really good stand here,
[00:11:58.270]and it's kinda funny, because I just admired those turnips,
[00:12:01.410]all those great, big turnips in there.
[00:12:03.410]At Christmas time I had my son and grandsons
[00:12:06.450]who were drivin' around the farm.
[00:12:11.000]The older grandson is Dr. Nick Ward that works for us,
[00:12:13.560]but Tyler, he was in the back seat just screamin' about
[00:12:18.260]something smelled terrible.
[00:12:22.375]I had the window down, but I finally stuck my head
[00:12:24.410]out the window, and then I could smell the turnips.
[00:12:26.620]There's a lot of stories you can tell about turnips rotting,
[00:12:30.350]and how bad they smell.
[00:12:31.740]So that decided then that we better add something else
[00:12:35.080]to the turnips, 'cause that wasn't real good.
[00:12:40.520]Where did Scott go?
[00:12:43.130]Did he leave the room, Scott?
[00:12:45.570]He's talkin' so...
[00:12:50.330]I wanted to get your attention,
[00:12:51.570]now I forgot what I was gonna say.
[00:12:58.370]Sorry about that.
[00:12:59.240]When we had the turnips on there, the next spring,
[00:13:03.650]the was no residue left.
[00:13:06.020]And I realized then that I had to put something else in,
[00:13:08.810]and it forced those bar meetings at night.
[00:13:12.887]And Salino found out he had to put a carbon in there,
[00:13:15.650]or grass, and so then we started that way.
[00:13:18.760]And then we had some really good stands,
[00:13:20.470]and I put this in there, and Joline's sittin' at the back.
[00:13:24.840]She looked at the fields, and I had that.
[00:13:27.310]I have to put turnips in the cover crop mix,
[00:13:29.170]whatever it is, she won't eat the damn things.
[00:13:33.880]But she has see 'em.
[00:13:36.800]She likes to see 'em out there,
[00:13:38.730]so we always have some turnips.
[00:13:40.920]She said that wasn't her hand,
[00:13:42.200]but see that fingernail polish right there?
[00:13:49.730]So there's some more diverse things,
[00:13:51.520]I say here more diverse because
[00:13:53.840]there's some veg right in there.
[00:13:57.010]There's smaller plants, there's some veg right there.
[00:14:00.060]So we had a legume in there,
[00:14:01.990]trying to get radishes and turnips.
[00:14:03.890]And then we gradually increased about 11 different things
[00:14:09.600]that we had in there.
[00:14:11.100]And then one of the other things we talked about early on
[00:14:14.130]was nutrient cycling.
[00:14:17.420]So here we have, just an example, so let's leave a
[00:14:21.750]little bare strip, and then we had a small crop mix
[00:14:25.940]over here in the cover crop.
[00:14:28.150]And in the spring we took soil samples for moisture,
[00:14:33.354]towards the last of April,
[00:14:35.340]and we had 0.6 inches more water in the cover crop
[00:14:39.420]than we had in the bare wheat stub.
[00:14:42.124]So this wheat stubble you see here is,
[00:14:44.570]there's bare ground down in between that stubble,
[00:14:47.180]and that's evaporation.
[00:14:48.590]And so one thing that we don't talk about in all
[00:14:52.380]our cropping is how much water we lose to evaporation.
[00:14:56.780]And the first thing you think of
[00:14:58.613]when you're doing cover crops for the first time is
[00:15:01.990]I want to save water, I don't wanna use it.
[00:15:06.760]We were down in Kansas in 2003,
[00:15:11.570]it was 105 when we got off the bus, so look at cover crops.
[00:15:14.910]And my first comment as farmers are gettin' off the bus,
[00:15:19.001]"I thought we were supposed to save water."
[00:15:22.370]And Joe went, and Joe Slanson who lives in Kansas,
[00:15:25.500]had six different cover crops planted individually.
[00:15:29.430]And then he had bare stubble.
[00:15:32.610]And he planted corn in that the next year,
[00:15:35.200]even thought it was dry, and the yields weren't very good.
[00:15:37.330]The porous yield, they were are all 20 bushel range,
[00:15:39.880]but the porous one was the bare wheat stubble.
[00:15:42.800]The other cover crops had a little bit more yield than that
[00:15:46.210]one, and so it made you think about what's goin' on.
[00:15:49.000]And so we measured soil here, moisture here,
[00:15:52.480]to try and determine that.
[00:15:54.720]But the other interesting thing is, see this mares tail?
[00:15:58.400]And if you don't put somethin' in that wheat stubble,
[00:16:00.660]mother nature's gonna put somethin' in there.
[00:16:03.631]You just kinda gotta remember that.
[00:16:05.730]And then you don't have to worry about the weeds
[00:16:07.750]when you got that cover crop in there.
[00:16:10.700]Shows turnips here in the cover crop.
[00:16:16.460]We took a yard square of three foot by three foot,
[00:16:21.830]took all the material off of the surface of the soil,
[00:16:26.780]and waited, we put it in a big garbage bag,
[00:16:29.300]took it back to the lab, and waited and calculated
[00:16:32.280]that the dry matter was 1.8 tons per acre.
[00:16:35.920]Then we analyzed it for these nutrients.
[00:16:38.490]So you can see we had 110 pounds of nitrogen in there,
[00:16:41.790]phosphorous and potassium, these are all things that
[00:16:44.220]are being recycled back up to the top.
[00:16:47.190]Now Scott showed how he cut nitrogen rates on that,
[00:16:52.460]because the cover crop that you had there.
[00:16:54.930]And the question is, how much of that should we be using?
[00:16:58.960]And in some people don't use any of it, but we're trying
[00:17:03.170]to figure out how much of that should be used.
[00:17:06.070]So in 2018, on our corn, average for the farm,
[00:17:09.870]we were at .63 pounds of nitrogen per bushel
[00:17:12.910]for our application.
[00:17:14.790]I was trying to keep track of those,
[00:17:17.280]then we got 2012 when we produced 50 bushel corn.
[00:17:24.080]I was way off in my factor,
[00:17:26.520]so I quit calculatin' it for a while,
[00:17:28.450]and finally got started last year.
[00:17:31.300]So these are some things, we're recycling some nutrients,
[00:17:33.700]and how much that's gonna be available.
[00:17:35.600]These are things we're trying to learn.
[00:17:38.691]I don't know for sure how much of that.
[00:17:40.270]Here's a hole in the ground from the radish.
[00:17:44.400]So you can get those things for taking in water.
[00:17:49.830]You can see the oat cover there.
[00:17:52.360]So now, on the cover crop mixes that I have,
[00:17:58.514]I wanted to have blossoms in that cover crop
[00:18:02.010]as much time as I can.
[00:18:04.460]So when you plant it, I mean, I got...
[00:18:06.560]Four or five different things that I plant,
[00:18:08.830]so something's blooming all the time.
[00:18:11.180]Trying to bring in pollinator insects that are
[00:18:14.280]beneficial insects, so we don't have to worry
[00:18:17.160]about insects in our rotation.
[00:18:19.380]So this is buckwheat,
[00:18:20.460]that's the first one that blooms in July.
[00:18:24.730]Then flax comes on as the next one that's blooming there.
[00:18:28.870]Then sunflowers, we don't have many sunflowers in here,
[00:18:31.970]but we got some.
[00:18:34.140]Then sun hemp is another one I plant in the legumes,
[00:18:37.810]to get it to bloom.
[00:18:40.890]So those are the cover crops, here's this year.
[00:18:45.110]I had corn panted into the cover crop with.
[00:18:48.700]Had volunteer wheat, so I sprayed to burn down the wheat.
[00:18:53.300]Then we've got corn planted in there.
[00:18:55.337]And this is kind of a yield map.
[00:18:58.601]This side here is this side over here,
[00:19:02.900]and that's an area that made over 194 bushel,
[00:19:08.547]a little over 200.
[00:19:09.740]And Mark says this is a average of
[00:19:13.410]all our corn crops since 2013 to 2018.
[00:19:18.547]For corn was produced on this quarter section.
[00:19:21.910]But we have some land down here to produce
[00:19:23.720]about 200 bushel corn.
[00:19:25.610]And then up here it's down to about 120 bushel
[00:19:28.800]on some of these Hastings silt loam eroded,
[00:19:32.440]and it's got big terraces on it.
[00:19:34.730]And this is a Crete in here,
[00:19:36.850]and some long Ford over here on this side
[00:19:39.450]as a soil developed in a Loveland less,
[00:19:43.510]instead of the biorient.
[00:19:45.930]It's a poorer, lower fertility, more clay soil,
[00:19:51.109]than rest of the biorient less soils.
[00:19:54.610]So it gives you an idea of what kind of yields
[00:19:56.790]we're getting off the farm.
[00:19:59.280]Some other things that I've tried,
[00:20:01.510]in 2009 I planted oats about mid-March,
[00:20:05.430]and I just set the bushel.
[00:20:07.630]I'm always worried about the cost of doing
[00:20:10.190]some of these things.
[00:20:11.460]So you can see the oats comin' up here pretty thin,
[00:20:15.820]but you got 'em planted.
[00:20:17.980]And then we planted soybeans the first week of May.
[00:20:21.890]We killed the oats the third week of May.
[00:20:25.010]And that's what it looked like on June 7th, 2009.
[00:20:29.420]There was just barely a leaf once in a while.
[00:20:33.370]There were actual buds that were alive, I could see 'em,
[00:20:37.680]and we kept this field.
[00:20:42.380]On the rest of the beans, we tried to seed some more
[00:20:46.560]seed in because it looked like the population
[00:20:49.920]was gonna be thinner.
[00:20:50.840]But this field, with the oat cover crop,
[00:20:53.210]I don't know if that had anything to do with it,
[00:20:54.980]but it averaged 60.2 bushel with all of that.
[00:20:59.260]There's three trifolates on that beans,
[00:21:00.657]the one that got hay, and it had come back.
[00:21:04.440]Our farm average was 48, but this 62 was on the best soil.
[00:21:08.510]It's just amazing how stuff recovered,
[00:21:11.020]but when you get hit like that,
[00:21:13.560]it's awful hard to try it again.
[00:21:16.020]So I didn't try oats again as a cover crop until 2008.
[00:21:23.061]So I got another picture on this,
[00:21:25.980]but then we planted rye in 2017,
[00:21:30.770]so we have rye planted here,
[00:21:33.250]and then we planted soybeans under this.
[00:21:34.453]This is in the corn stubble,
[00:21:36.180]and this is in the soybean stubble.
[00:21:37.980]So you can see how the rye responded to the soybeans.
[00:21:42.370]I thought pretty good cover.
[00:21:44.210]And I pulled a rye, remember when Jay was showing those
[00:21:47.660]that oat root, when you pull a wheat or rye on a spring like
[00:21:53.650]this, and it shows all that soil clinging on those roots,
[00:21:57.920]And that's the same thing Jay showed
[00:22:00.610]in the PowerPoint this morning.
[00:22:04.720]It just shows you how that bacteria is living on that
[00:22:08.150]root system, and eating the sloughed off cells
[00:22:11.150]and exudates that are leaking out of that root system.
[00:22:14.250]It's a pretty good demonstration of how lively your soil is,
[00:22:19.918]if it's wet and they come out clean,
[00:22:22.170]you know you don't have bacteria around it.
[00:22:24.570]If you pull rye roots out when it's dry
[00:22:27.660]it'll strip all that stuff off,
[00:22:28.960]so you have to do it when it's fairly wet.
[00:22:33.090]And this is what the rye was killed the time we planted.
[00:22:37.880]You see the soybeans just starting to come up.
[00:22:41.450]And I really like this system,
[00:22:43.720]we've got rye planted this year,
[00:22:46.180]have to wait to see if it comes up.
[00:22:49.080]This stupid weather last fall, we got planted the rye
[00:22:52.180]about the second week of December.
[00:22:56.950]So, another thing, this is a field we did a lot of
[00:23:02.600]dirt work on it this year,
[00:23:03.990]making basins and pile lines to take the water,
[00:23:08.040]because as I explained, the creek doesn't take
[00:23:10.340]a lot of water when it gets wet.
[00:23:12.150]So this is planted of wheat, and as Mark said,
[00:23:15.647]it really blew even though we had this kind of cover on it.
[00:23:20.410]The wind erosion was bad.
[00:23:22.160]I drove down by the farm at Wilburs last week,
[00:23:24.890]and there was drifts of soil in the ditch,
[00:23:28.270]blowin' off of these tilled areas.
[00:23:31.500]I said good thing we had wheat planted in there,
[00:23:33.590]because I dunno what it would have been like
[00:23:35.700]if we hadn't hda anything growing in there.
[00:23:38.885]So the cover crop's real important for a lot of things.
[00:23:42.690]I thought I had one more picture.
[00:23:44.260]Sorry, I don't.
[00:23:46.610]Go back to this oats here.
[00:23:50.040]We planted oats in the spring of 2018,
[00:23:55.110]where we were gonna plant corn,
[00:23:57.300]as a kind of as an experiment.
[00:23:59.960]'Cause oats is supposedly a highly mycorrhizable crop.
[00:24:04.817]So mycorrhiza is started, so when the corn was planted,
[00:24:08.010]then you'd have a faster startup for corn,
[00:24:09.960]it was kind of that idea.
[00:24:11.690]What was April like in 2018?
[00:24:14.970]It was cold, we got planted about the 10th of March,
[00:24:17.200]but by the time we planted the corn it was about
[00:24:19.670]3 inches tall, so I dunno if we gained anything or not.
[00:24:23.580]My second attempt at oats wasn't very good either.
[00:24:27.420]So these are the farm averages.
[00:24:30.990]The yields each year since 1994, when we started no-till.
[00:24:38.700]So we're getting 1.62 bushel per acre, per year increase.
[00:24:42.960]And it's interesting,
[00:24:44.970]here was 2012, we got 50 bushel.
[00:24:49.750]2014, two years later, we got almost 200 bushel.
[00:24:54.850]And on an average, those two was right on the trend line.
[00:24:59.200]But it does show that our yields are increasing.
[00:25:02.220]How much is attributed to the genetics that the crop
[00:25:04.760]breeders might claim, or how much is due to our no-till.
[00:25:08.910]But these are the things that I look at is,
[00:25:12.770]my yield's gone up, and of course I'm interested in
[00:25:16.910]making money on the thing too.
[00:25:21.691]I don't have any finances in here.
[00:25:25.080]Here's the soybeans, 4/10 of a bushel per acre, per year.
[00:25:29.310]You know, this is one of those statistical things.
[00:25:31.550]If I took this firsts year out, our highest soybean yield
[00:25:35.370]was the first year we started in '94.
[00:25:37.810]If I drop that one out,
[00:25:39.420]that would tip that thing a lot more,
[00:25:41.580]and show that the yield was going up faster than that.
[00:25:46.080]When people complain about the weather being variable,
[00:25:49.290]or climate change, I think we all experience what happens
[00:25:54.390]And often I say, you think farmers have 30 years experience,
[00:25:59.090]but they don't, they have one years experience 30 times.
[00:26:05.480]What I really want you to do is take kind of
[00:26:06.950]an average experiences, don't make all your
[00:26:10.240]decisions on what happened last year.
[00:26:12.860]You kinda have to do those average.
[00:26:15.060]I see Nathan is shaking his head,
[00:26:17.580]he got the PH.D. thing too, didn't ya?
[00:26:21.960]And wheat is 0.87 bushel per acre, per year, going up.
[00:26:29.860]My money things is,
[00:26:32.340]about six years ago, five years ago,
[00:26:36.800]I took $200,000 out of the account and paid off
[00:26:39.640]Ward Laboratories building that I owed money on,
[00:26:42.760]so I could get ready to borrow another $1.4 million
[00:26:46.910]to build another building.
[00:26:48.620]And then three years ago, luckily,
[00:26:51.930]I built a 20,000 bushel green bin before this
[00:26:56.300]steel embargo, or tariff.
[00:27:01.160]Then in 2018 we did $70,000 worth of
[00:27:04.370]dirt work on this quarter.
[00:27:05.970]Trying to stop interrill erosion,
[00:27:10.850]the new word that NRCS uses.
[00:27:13.728]There's a lot of small dishes in that,
[00:27:15.460]you'll wanna take care of that.
[00:27:17.617]That's what we're doin' on our farm,
[00:27:21.330]no-till and saw health, and the cover crops,
[00:27:25.810]and I'm learnin' as we go along, I listen to Jay,
[00:27:28.050]and these guys, and come home and try a few things.
[00:27:31.700]But I have one story to tell about Jay,
[00:27:34.680]and he talked about how he was so interested in cover crops,
[00:27:39.100]and then in 2006 he did something different.
[00:27:42.500]And it was partly because down in Salina in January of 2006,
[00:27:46.985]Ademir Calgary from Brazil, come up to Salina and said,
[00:27:52.627]"You gotta plant a cocktail cover crop.
[00:27:56.227]"You gotta mix a whole bunch of things together."
[00:27:58.860]And I said the only people dumb enough to listen to that
[00:28:03.260]were from Bismarck in North Dakota.
[00:28:09.230]And I was there in that summer, and got to see that.
[00:28:14.294]And it's still hard to believe that it did.
[00:28:17.010]He planted 11 different cover crops, individually,
[00:28:22.930]and they had had 2.8 inches of moisture
[00:28:27.140]from January 1st to the first week of August.
[00:28:30.330]So it's really dry, and every one of those
[00:28:32.850]cover crops is burnt up.
[00:28:35.360]And when they put 11 things together,
[00:28:38.730]the cover crop was about this high...
[00:28:41.020]How much dry matter did you have?
[00:28:44.323]4,000 pounds of dry matter.
[00:28:46.290]Turnips are about 1.5 inch diameter,
[00:28:48.370]lupines are blooming right beside the burnt up stuff.
[00:28:53.520]So when we talk about this mixed cover crop thing,
[00:28:57.870]and then they said well, the roots are gettin' together,
[00:28:59.920]and the plants are sharing things,
[00:29:01.654]and my biology just wouldn't let me accept that
[00:29:11.848]oat root would connect with a lupine root.
[00:29:15.640]But my kids bought me a book on soil, luckily they know I
[00:29:21.180]need more education, I'm on it all the time but.
[00:29:24.000]And it's written by a forester,
[00:29:25.600]he wanted to study carbon partition in a fur tree,
[00:29:30.290]so they covered this fur tree with plastic,
[00:29:33.000]injected carbon dioxide 14, radioactive carbon dioxide,
[00:29:38.830]into that tree, and then they started to find all of it,
[00:29:42.460]and they couldn't find all of it.
[00:29:44.330]And they finally found it in an aspen tree,
[00:29:47.280]I would say down-slope, but it might have been up-slope,
[00:29:49.200]but probably down-slope.
[00:29:50.780]And the theory was that the mycorrhiza from those two trees
[00:29:54.920]connected and traded this stuff back and forth.
[00:29:57.800]So it's the microbes in the soil that are doing this stuff,
[00:30:01.065]and one of the plants don't have to spend all their
[00:30:04.330]energy to get water, or get a nutrient and trade 'em
[00:30:07.440]back and forth.
[00:30:08.273]They don't spend as much energy,
[00:30:11.160]and so they're able to grow bigger with that combination.
[00:30:14.190]So that's why the cocktail cover crop's
[00:30:16.400]so important to us now.
[00:30:18.000]And then the blooming plants in there, the pollinators,
[00:30:21.870]they're very important for a lot of things.
[00:30:24.580]You guys got any questions?
[00:30:25.413]I'll be glad to answer those.
[00:30:34.723]We'll take a few questions for Ray,
[00:30:35.700]and then we'll get the panel ready.
[00:30:38.050]So, questions for Ray.
[00:30:53.200]Hey Ray, when you take nutrients away,
[00:30:57.730]what do you believe now?
[00:30:59.320]Do you have to add nutrients back with the cover crops
[00:31:02.100]over long haul, or not?
[00:31:07.645]When we take things off the land,
[00:31:09.630]if it's a grain or a 4H, we're taking nutrients off.
[00:31:14.500]You saw the nutrients in that cover crop.
[00:31:16.450]If we'd taken that cover crop off as a hay,
[00:31:19.870]you'd have taken that 110 pounds of nitrogen
[00:31:21.850]away from that field.
[00:31:23.630]The 29 pounds of phosphorous you'd have taken away.
[00:31:28.330]That's nutrient cycling.
[00:31:31.500]When people say that we get this length in the soil going,
[00:31:35.280]and you don't have to put any nutrients on.
[00:31:38.660]In time, you're gonna have to.
[00:31:42.580]There's free nitrogen, we can grow the legumes,
[00:31:46.370]Scott, and do that and get free nitrogen,
[00:31:48.560]but we can't get free phosphorous.
[00:31:50.550]So the microbes can dissolve some of the mineral
[00:31:54.830]phosphorous, but in time, we're gonna run out.
[00:31:57.536]And how soon...
[00:32:00.703]Do we harnest all that stuff now and let the next
[00:32:03.330]generation, or 10 generations down the road,
[00:32:06.360]figure out how to do it, or do we kinda
[00:32:08.410]take of it ourselves now.
[00:32:10.508]My contention is we have to mindful of
[00:32:14.797]nutrient removal and nutrient cycling.
[00:32:19.150]If you have high saltis, it's kinda like looking at
[00:32:22.310]the gas gauge, fuel gauge, on your tractor or pickup.
[00:32:27.910]How much fuel do you put in?
[00:32:30.320]If it's full, you're not gonna run anything out,
[00:32:32.450]so why would you put fertilizer on
[00:32:34.147]if your saltis or you tank is full?
[00:32:38.240]Now, if the tank is down a quarter,
[00:32:41.870]you know you better be doin' something pretty darn soon,
[00:32:44.110]or you're gonna have a disaster.
[00:32:46.130]And so that's where you'd replace the nutrients
[00:32:48.590]with the soil test.
[00:32:49.510]The soil test is your gauge for the nutrients,
[00:32:52.330]where the fuel gauge is the gauge for fuel.
[00:32:55.110]And that's my analogy that seems to look pretty good.
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