The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) supports cover crop research through its Soil Health Graduate Scholarship fund. The 2015 recipient,graduate student Jaclyn Clark, for her graduate thesis, explores June cover crop planting into standing corn. By the time harvest is finished in September or October, the cover crop will have a head start on plant growth.
“Cover crop research across Ontario must be at record levels this year,” says Gord Green, President of the OSCIA. “Most counties across southern Ontario will have a handful of farmers with experiments of cover crop to capture left over nutrients at the end of the season and also improve soil health, which contributes to better water holding capacity.”
“With drought extending across southern Ontario for much of June and July in 2016, soils that have a long history of best management practices have been showing more resilience to drought,” says Dr. Bill Deen, soil scientist in Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph and supervisor of Ms. Clark’s research. “It is believed that cover crops can play an important role for soil to fulfill all its functions over time and also improve the diversity of soil biota to support soil as a vital living system.” says Deen.
“My research involves inter seeding two cover crop species (one legume, red clover, and one grass, annual ryegrass) singly and in combination into corn at the V5 growth stage at three locations across southern Ontario,” says Clark in describing her research.
“There will be two harvest treatments, one for silage (all corn residue removed early in the fall) and one for grain (cobs removed, residues remain in field late in the fall). Two planting methods of the cover crops will be investigated: drilling and broadcasting. These factorial Treatments help to fill multiple gaps in the literature on the potential for cover crop inclusion in a corn soy rotation. Corn yields (involving grain or silage dry matter) and above ground biomass of cover crops will be measured, as well as soybean yields in the subsequent season. Data collected can be combined with known soil and weather data to make interpretations based on seasonal or locational context, accounting for the variability inherent to agriculture,” she adds.
This research is being done in collaboration with Dr. Dave Hooker from Ridgetown Campus and Dr. Mehdi Sharifi from Trent University.
The Soil Health Graduate Scholarship has been established by the OSCIA to support expanded research on soil health. OSCIA is committed to a new Soil Health Graduate Scholarship each year for the next five years. Private funding is supporting this scholarship, launched in 2015 with Past Presidents’ contributions.
More information about funding opportunities through OSCIA’s Sustainability Fund can be found at: www.ontariosoilcrop.org/