PRODUCING MORE WITH LESS
Farmers will have to grow as much food in the next 26 years as they have grown in the previous 1,500 years. That’s because by then world populations are expected to exceed 9 billion. With land for crop and livestock production at a premium and greater weather variability, we must now “do more with less”.
Famers need to be looking at ways to improve yields and reduce the cost of producing these yields. As researchers look for new varieties of crops to boost yields and improve extreme weather resilience, producers must do their own research in figuring out ways to cut costs.
Cover crops have become a major topic in many agriculture meetings, publications and other media outlets to help combat this issue. Research has shown that cover crops can increase yields, reduce inputs, improve water infiltration and reduce the impacts of extreme weather. This can only be achieved with proper planning, application and management of cover crops.
Cover crops are not a “quick fix”, most benefits may not been seen for 3-10 years. Producers need to be thinking about cover crops at least 6-12 months in advance of planting. Producers must ask themselves, “What cash crop will be planted next spring? What are my objectives for the cover crops? What cover crop varieties do I want to plant? How will I terminate the cover crop before the next cash crop is planted?” Just to name a few.
Cover crops alone will not solve the issue agricultural producers have in front of them, but with the implementation of practices such as cover crops, precision nutrient management and advances in technology will hopefully help us reach this goal in the coming years.
Row crop producers are not alone in this “dilemma”, livestock producers must also find ways to reduce input costs as well. One way this can be accomplished is by setting up rotational grazing systems. When cross fences and water sources are strategically placed and grazing management plan is followed, inputs can be reduced as the plan is implemented. When cattle are frequently rotated between paddocks, manure and urine are more uniformly distributed throughout the pasture and forage in other paddocks are allowed to re-grow quickly. Once fertility levels are raised through various sources, a rotational grazing system can help to reduce the amount of fertilizer applied and reduce or possibly eliminate hay being fed in the winter.
All of these management systems improve soil health, which in turn can reduce the need for external inputs and improve crop and livestock production. This can only be achieved from a commitment from the producer. -Nathan Hicklin, Soil Conservationist
For more information on cover crops, nutrient management, rotational grazing systems or other ways to reduce inputs contact us at:
USDA-NRCS & Dickson County Soil Conservation District
Wynne Luter, District Conservationist
305 Henslee Drive
Dickson, TN 37055
615-446-2449 ext 3
Corn planted into residue from 5 species cover crop mix (May 29th)
Cover Crop Planting in Peas-oats