The Cover Crop field day, sponsored by the Pure Water Forum, had 39 registered participants. It was a cold day for a field day, with a few snow flurries in the air. But the information shared was very good. Nutrient management credits and continuing education credits for conservation planners were offered.
The event began at the Tenth Legion Mountain Valley Ruritan Hall with a welcome and thank you to the Pure Water Forum for sponsoring the field day. Then the group viewed a portion of the DVD entitled “Cover Crops of the Shenandoah Valley,” which was narrated by Richard Fitzgerald, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agronomist. Richard discussed the mechanics of the Smith Creek plots that contained a variety of mixed species, monoculture, and the no cover crop control plot, that were planted at Valley View Farms. The video, which was filmed in the spring 2013, showed the cover crops in full bloom, so the audience could see what the plots looked like with living cover. The plot walk through the corn planted into those cover crop plots, took place later that morning and Richard Fitzgerald discussed the corn yield results, which were hand harvested.
Matt Yancey from Virginia Cooperative Extension discussed yield results from plots on other farms in Rockingham County as part of a Conservation Innovation Grant he received through the NRCS. His and other Virginia Tech research results were discussed.
Chris Lawrence, State NRCS Agronomist, discussed basic principles of healthy soils and why cover crops are important.
Participants next caravanned to the plots, then walked through them to examine the corn and compare residue left on the ground between a variety of kill methods. The group discussed the mixed results, including the fact that the no-cover control plot had a relatively high yield this fall. The consensus of the group was that because Valley View Farms had been building soil quality over many years and that it was a high rainfall year, that yield differences were reduced and overall yield was good.
Participants returned back to the Tenth Legion Mountain Valley Ruritan Hall for a delicious lunch prepared by Hanks BBQ.
During lunch, there were presentations on ammonia emissions reductions from poultry houses by Rory Maguire, Virginia Tech, and poultry litter injection results from graduate student Stephanie Kulescza. There was an optional return to the field to look at how grazing can be integrated into cover crops and a few hardy souls stayed for the afternoon walk.