In-Field Solutions for Extreme Weather Events
It’s no secret that 2019 has been a challenging weather season for Ashland County farmers. It seems the faucet turned on early last fall and the rains haven’t let up since. I heard this past week that the month of May had seven days suitable for field work – just seven our of 31 days.
With planting windows tightening, more and more farmers are struggling to get their crops planted – and those farmers are looking for answers. That’s where Ashland Soil & Water Conservation District can help provide solutions to changing weather patterns with a significant increase in heavy rainfall events.
One of the best ways to manage those conditions is to increase residue on the field and organic matter in the soil through the use of cover crops and selective tillage. Ashland SWCD has several programs to help accomplish those goals:
· Aerial cover crop seeding
This year will be the first year Ashland SWCD will be coordinating an aerial cover crop seeding program in our county. This is a great option in wet growing seasons to help prevent compaction. Compaction is a serious in-field enemy to water infiltration. Technician Erica White is accepting applications for the program until August 21. Applying is as simple as a farmer bringing their FSA field maps to the SWCD office and letting Erica know what crop they would like to plant. Options include oats, rye, barley, and oats/barley mix and an oats/rye mix. Seeding is scheduled for the week after Labor Day.
· Reduced rate no-till drill rental
Ashland County struggled getting their traditional cash crops in the ground, leaving a lot of empty field and prevent plant acres. One of the best tools to manage those prevent plant fields is to put a cover crop on the ground using a no-till drill to suppress weeds, build organic matter, improve water infiltration. Plus, with hay and forage crops already in short supply, a cover crop can provide much needed forage for fall and winter livestock needs. The no-till drill doesn’t disrupt the soil, making it less susceptible to erosion. Ashland SWCD has two 2018 model John Deere no-till drills, a 10-ft and a 15-ft that rent for just $10 an acre the remainder of the year.
· Soil testing
For farmers who have harvested their wheat or have prevent plant acres, now is a great time to perform soil tests on their field to really understand their nutrient level and start making plans for the 2020 growing season. Ashland SWCD offers soil testing services at cost to our county producers, and Technician Erica White works with producers to create a voluntary nutrient management plan to identify what the field’s nutrient needs will be for the next three years at no cost to the producer.
· On-Field Ohio
Erosion is one of the biggest long-term threats to the sustainability of our farm fields during heavy rain events, not only because farmers are losing the topsoil they need to sustain their long-term soil health and productivity, but also because the soil that is eroding carries important nutrients into our waterways. We know excess nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in our waterways can contribute to Lake Erie’s algal blooms and the hypoxic dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and we know farmers are spending their valuable resources to put those nutrients in their fields where they can be invaluable to a growing crop. It makes sense for everyone to do what we can to keep that soil and those nutrients in place in the farm field. Ashland SWCD is partnering with Ohio State University to offer our producers access to On-Field Ohio – a phosphorus risk index that uses computer modeling to evaluate how different practices and management decisions impact farmers’ erosion and phosphorus loss risk. There is no cost for this service, and throughout the fall and winter we will be adding two more computer modeling services to our line up to evaluate nitrogen as well as in-season application decisions and their impact on farmers ROI.
Just like our weather patterns are changing, Ashland SWCD is changing – providing innovative services and solutions to Ashland County’s farmers to help them meet the challenges they are facing in today’s agricultural industry while protecting our natural resources.