Survey Shows Cover Crops Could Boost Yield
Cover crops have been found to increase soil organic matter; reduce erosion and compaction; and improve weed control—all of which can lead to a yield boost. The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) surveyed 1,924 farmers (both users and non-users of cover crops) to learn more about how and why they incorporate cover crops into their operation.
About one-third of the farmers compared corn yields on similar fields with and without cover crops during the 2014 growing season. Their results showed an average yield increase of 5 bu. per acre. A third of the farmers also compared yields in soybean fields with and without cover crops and reported an average increase of 2 bu. per acre. The benefits proved to be even greater in 2013, a drought year, with an 11.1 bu. increase in corn and a 4.9 bu. increase in soybeans. The median seed cost per acre is $25 based on the cover crop and seeding rate.
Despite the proven benefits of cover crops, some farmers are still skeptical. The biggest concerns are time and labor requirements, seed and seeding costs and crop selection. To address these concerns, CTIC is working with USDA to perform a study on the economic benefits and downfalls of cover crops in seven Midwest states. For a full article and detailed survey results, visit www.ctic.purdue.edu.
Additional States Will Have Access to Enlist Duo In Light of Controversy
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Enlist Duo herbicide for use in nine more states—Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Enlist Duo partners with Enlist corn and soybean seeds as the primary herbicide with glyphosate and 2,4-D choline.
This expansion doesn’t come without controversy, however. On Feb. 6, 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., and the Center for Food Safety filed a motion stating Enlist Duo poses a threat to the whooping crane and the Indiana bat, both endangered species. This motion builds on an earlier challenge by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice. The concern is the whooping crane and the Indiana bat will be exposed to potentially toxic levels of 2,4-D after ingesting insects who have consumed plants with the chemical.
At the Root of Resistance
Purdue University’s weed science research team is working to combat yield-robbing, herbicide-resistant weeds. The mutations in the weed’s genes from years of exposure to herbicides have cost farmers yield and profits by stealing nutrients, oxygen, water and sunlight from intended crops.
Using Protea Biosciences’ Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization technology, the team hopes to map the molecular interaction between plants and herbicides to better understand existing and emerging herbicide-resistant weeds. The high-tech tool enables the direct analysis of molecules without applying chemicals, tags or tracers.