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By Ryan McGeeney U of A System Division of AgricultureAug. 4, 2017
(479 words)(Download this story in MS Word here.)
JONESBORO, Ark. – Researchers with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
will study the efficacy of using cover crops in reducing growers’ nitrogen fertilizer
needs, retaining soil moisture, and growing profit margins during a three-year demonstration
scheduled to begin this fall.
Steven Green, Professor of Soil and Water Conservation at Arkansas State University,
who has a research appointment with the Division of Agriculture, is the primary investigator
for the three-year project, formally titled “Integration of Cover Crops in Arkansas
and Delta Row Crop Systems.” Green and his fellow researchers were awarded a grant
for more than $317,000 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Green said that only a small percentage of Arkansas growers use cover crops between
growing seasons, a situation he says is rooted both in skepticism about the cost-effectiveness
of the practice and simple aesthetic traditions.
“There are a lot of farmers who don’t want to use cover crops because the seed costs
money, the extra herbicide costs money — they think there are all these extra costs,”
Green said. “Additionally, we have a very strong tradition of plowing up our fields.
Our farmers like to see a nice, clean-looking field, and to them, clean is a bare
field. So that’s part of the issue — there’s a tradition of high-disturbance tillage
in this state.
“Our intent is to document all the economic benefits, as well as the costs, of growing
cover crops in these systems,” he said.
The project’s three objectives are to determine the amount of surplus nitrogen retained
in the soil in the presence of cover crops, to determine how much less irrigation
is required as a result of the cover crops’ effect on evaporation, and to determine
the economic benefit of reduced input costs for nitrogen fertilizer and water irrigation.
Green’s research team will also include Joe Massey, a researcher with the U.S. Department
of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service; Mark Jordan, an Agricultural Economics
instructor at ASU and executive director of LEAP Market Analytics; and Chris Henry,
an irrigation specialist and assistant professor for the Division of Agriculture.
Green said the project will involve a mixture of cover crops, including cereal rye,
winter peas, black oat, turnips and others. The participating growers typically grow
corn, soybean, cotton and row-irrigated rice, he said.
The demonstration project will be carried out on four privately-owned farms throughout
northeast Arkansas, ranging in size from 2,500 acres to 9,000 acres. The producers
running these farms have already been using cover crops in their rotations for at
least four years each, Green said.
“It’s not that they’re ‘playing with cover crops’ to see what they’ll do,” he said.
“They are totally committed to using cover crops. They’ve said that they’re making
more money — that it’s more profitable to be using more cover crops.”
To learn about cover crops in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service
agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org