Early September warm weather brought over sixty agriculture producers and agriculture service industry personnel together to discover and talk about the benefits of planting cover crops.  The Soil and Water Conservation Districts from Parke and Vermillion Counties hosted the cover crop field day event as part of their Clean Water Indiana Grant initiative.  The cover crop field day highlighted both the economic and technical aspects of growing cover crops as both a component to soil health and as a nutrient source. 

 Dan Perkins, of Perkins’ Good Earth Farm in Jasper County, IN, spoke on the economic benefits of planting cover crops.  Perkins gave examples of the impact cover crops have had on fields in Jasper County as well as other areas throughout Indiana.  He also discussed time lines for both seeding in the fall and for termination of the cover crops before planting in the spring.  Perkins believes the number one benefit of cover crops on agriculture land is the benefit to soil health.  “Cover crops help with bio-diversity in the field, which in turn, leads to greater pest and weed control” commented Perkins. 

Attendees also heard from Vermillion County Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Phil Cox, on participating in Indiana’s DriftWatch Program.  Local specialty crop producers and bee keepers are encouraged to register their farms and apiaries on the site so that local chemical applicators can better plan for applications in local agricultural fields.  Betsy Bowers, with CERES Solutions, discussed the management of Marestail in crop fields as well as best practices for termination of cover crops.  

After the presentation portion of the event, attendees moved to the demonstration fields to see plots of single variety cover crops as well as cover crop mixes.  The varieties of cover crop seeds were donated by Byron Seed, LLC in Rockville, IN.  While in the demonstration plots, Don Donovan, District Conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, showed examples of cover crop rooting via a soil probe machine.  The soil probe took four foot deep, three inch in diameter soil samples which allowed attendees to see how deep each variety of cover crop rooted. Cover crop rooting is important because it opens up channels for water and crop roots to move deeper into the soil.  “In a drought year, this deep rooting could lead to greater water uptake than with shallow rooting” commented Donovan.  Attendees were also treated to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) demonstration by Aaron Neblett with Drago Indiana.  UAV’s (commonly known as “drones”) are becoming an economic way to scout crop production fields in the air.  

The day began with a breakfast provided the Parke/Vermillion Conservation Partners and catered by R&R Junction.  Attendees were also given information bags provided by Beck Seeds, First Financial Bank, First Farmers Bank and Trust and No-Till Farmer Magazine.  Farm Credit Services Mid-America donated bottled water for the event as well.  

Don Donovan pulling soil samples from cover crop field