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Highway 57 Demo Plot Sees Sediment Runoff Reduction on No-Till Acres with Cover Crops

In collaboration with the Water Resources Monitoring Group, LLC, the Highway 57 Soil Health Demonstration Plot receives annual rainfall simulator tests. These tests provide information about infiltration and turbidity of the soil that runs off during the trial rain tests being completed.



The most recent sample was taken on April 13th, 2024 at the Hwy 57 Demo Plot. The field conditions at that time were as follows:


A1: Leftover corn stalk residue from 2023 harvest, no cover crop

A2: Leftover corn stalk residue from 2023 harvest, winter wheat cover crop (planted 11/22/2023)

B1: Exposed soil (will be planted with corn this year)

B2: Cover crop mix planted 8/2/2023 (will be planted with corn this year)

C1: Leftover soybean stalk residue from 2023 harvest, some winter wheat growth (planted 11/7/2023)

C2: Leftover soybean stalk residue from 2023 harvest, some winter wheat growth (planted 11/7/2023) with clover cover crop (planted 3/20/2024)


Shown below are the turbidity levels from the samples taken during the rainfall simulation on April 13th, 2024. Results also showed that the no-till fields infiltrated water 2" per hour compared to the conventional fields at only 1/4" per hour!


Summary:


A2 and B2 show a significant reduction in turbidity compared to their conventional tillage counterparts, A1 and B1. This is likely due to the fields currently in cover crops. This management practice helps to keep the soil in place, provides for infiltration, while reducing the water to soil contact and potential for erosion! A reduction in erosion means a reduction in sediment and nutrient pollution to our local waterbodies.


Although not as great a clarity, C2 does show slight improvement in water clarity compared to C1. Due to the later than typical planting of winter wheat in November 2023, there was less time for growth in the Fall which resulted in delayed growth in the Spring. This caused for a greater surface of exposed soils. This could be prevented with an earlier planting of winter wheat in the Fall of the previous year.

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