Hawk Creek field day shows growing interest in cover crops

Renville County, known for its abundant yields of corn, soybeans, and sugar beets, is also fertile ground for the growing cover crop movement. More than 50 local farmers attended a cover crop field day Sept. 23 south of Maynard, sponsored by the Hawk Creek Watershed Project, Renville County SWCD, and Renville County Water Management office. The test plots are located on the farm of Dean Dambroten, Hawk Creek Watershed Project technician.

Holly Hatlewick of the Renville County SWCD described a variety of cover crop plants and test plot results. Jodi Dejong-Hughes of U of M Extension scrambled into two soil pits, one showing healthy soil beneath perennial vegetation, and the other showing dense, compacted soil below tillage. Eric Barsness, an agronomist with the NRCS in Brookings, SD, used a rainfall simulator to demonstrate the infiltration rates and runoff rates of different farming methods. Healthy soil structure from vegetation allows better infiltration of rainfall, compared with compacted soil with less organic matter. Seed vendors and aerial applicators provided information about how to get started using cover crops.

Farmers are encouraged to contact their local SWCD/NRCS office for more information. Research shows that cover crops help protect soil from rainfall impact, armor the soil from wind and water erosion, and build soil organic matter, increasing soil structure and water infiltration. Photo: Holly Hatlewick describes several varieties of cover crops at the test plot.