The 2014 cover crop trials revealed several factors that influenced grower’s decision to utilize cover crops in their production system.

  • Reducing erosion
  • Reducing compaction
  • Increasing organic matter
  • Weed suppression
  • Improving soil structure

Wind and water erosion is commonplace on Delta agricultural lands subject to normal tillage practices. While the loss of sediment and nutrients may not be readily apparent on the field, it is very evident in ditches, streams, and lakes throughout the Delta. Although, the true cost of erosion is difficult to quantify, there comes a point when the cost is realized through the observation of its negative impacts to both soil and water resources.

<p>
	Wind erosion. 
	<em>Photo by Rachel Stout Evans.</em>
</p>

Wind erosion. Photo by Rachel Stout Evans.

<p>
	Field erosion. 
	<em>Photo by Rachel Stout Evans.</em>
</p>

Field erosion. Photo by Rachel Stout Evans.

<p>
	Field erosion. 
	<em>Photo by Rachel Stout Evans.</em>
</p>

Field erosion. Photo by Rachel Stout Evans.

Compaction issues due to both traffic and tillage were readily observed on fields around the Delta in 2014. The initial cause for investigation in many instances was poor irrigation water infiltration which was observed through the use of soil moisture sensors. These suspicions were confirmed through the use of penetrometers to measure compaction in pounds per square inch and by simply digging to and through the compacted zone with a shovel. Low organic matter and poor soil structure are directly related to compaction and poor infiltration issues.
The compacted layer in this conventionally tilled field clearly begins at 4.5 inches.
The compacted layer in this conventionally tilled field clearly begins at 4.5 inches.
Roots also are an indicator of compaction. The tillage radish tuber pictured here diverged from its vertical path downward in search of a path of less resistance around and through the compacted zones. <em>Photos by Rachel Stout Evans.</em>
Roots also are an indicator of compaction. The tillage radish tuber pictured here diverged from its vertical path downward in search of a path of less resistance around and through the compacted zones. Photos by Rachel Stout Evans.
A penetrometer is an excellent method of finding and measuring compaction zones that may be restricting root growth and water infiltration. <em>Photo by Rachel Stout Evans.</em>
A penetrometer is an excellent method of finding and measuring compaction zones that may be restricting root growth and water infiltration. Photo by Rachel Stout Evans.

Disclaimer: Through the 2014 Cover Crop Trials we were able to observe the planting and growth of numerous cover crop species across more than 5,000 acres in the Mississippi Delta. The information provided here intends to summarize our experiences and lessons learned.