The 2017 Innovation Grant Program is well underway, with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) investing more than $250,000 in 23 farmer-led projects focused on conservation. Throughout the summer we will be highlighting ongoing projects focused on how to better manage nitrogen and protect water quality.
Following a winter and spring in 2015 that brought some of the worst wind erosion in years, Brad Nere became a believer in conservation practices on his farm in Renville County. Starting with strip tilling to prevent erosion, he has since incorporated cover crops and split application of nitrogen as a two-year Innovation Grant recipient.
For cover crops, Nere has measured the effectiveness of different methods to plant cover crops, including applying cover crop seed by airplane, blending seed with urea fertilizer and using a spinner seeder, and drilling cover crop seed with V6 corn.
In 2017 with his Innovation Grant, Nere is measuring the effects of planting cover crop seed while also sidedressing 28 percent nitrogen with a Gandy Air Seeder/28% Applicator. Nere is trying different cover crop varieties to see which is best in heavy corn populations and using improved methods of cover crop seed incorporation for better germination.
With the results, Nere hopes he will make more believers of cover crops.
“The fear with the people that I talk to is that cover crops are going to compete with corn,” he said. “We have proven in the last two years that is not true. We have had either no yield difference or gained as much as 5 to 6 percent.”
For strip tillage, Nere in the past strip-tilled 107 acres followed by planting directly on those strips. The result was yields that were either on par or higher than conventionally tilled acres.
This planting season, Nere will strip till as many as 460 acres using an eight-row strip-till bar. If he has similar success, the practice will be used on 100 percent of his acres next year.
For split-application of nitrogen, Nere applied 60 pounds per acres in the fall instead of full application, followed by 30 pounds per acre in the spring. Nitrate testing was performed between V4 and V6 corn stages, with sidedressing used for any additional nitrogen needs. The result: Nitrate levels were adequate, not excessive and not deficient.
In 2017 as part of his Innovation Grant, Nere will be comparing different methods of fertilizer application, including deep-banded fertilizer in fall application and using different application rates on strip and conventionally tilled land.
“Through these project plans, we expect soil erosion to decrease, nitrogen needs will be lessened and soil tithe will improve,” Nere said. “We are very excited to pursue this endeavor.”
Do you have a conservation-minded research project in mind? We are now accepting applications for the 2018 Innovation Grant Program. Find out more at mncorn.org/research-rfps.