Over 110 farmers and agricultural professionals gathered in Washington, New Jersey to discuss no-till farming and cover crops on December 13th, 2018.
The New Jersey No-till and Cover Crop Conference was the first of its kind in New Jersey. It was a unique one-of-a-kind learning experience assembling the some of the best no-tilling and cover cropping farmers in the northeast as well as agronomists, and researchers together in one location to share cutting-edge ideas and strategies to improve the profitability, efficiency, and sustainability of their no-till and cover crop operation.
The North Jersey RC&D organized event began with two keynote addresses by Jim Hersey and Lucas Criswell. Both Hersey and Criswell are Pennsylvania farmers with over 20 years of experience with cover crops and no-till. Conference participants sat in rapt attention as they described their journey from conventional tillers to planting into green cover crops over 6 feet high! They shared their tremendous soil quality gains and detailed the many cost saving measures they've implemented to keep their operations profitable including eliminating field passes, seed treatments and herbicide applications. Criswell emphasized,
“Look, at the end of the year when it’s tax time, it's not about the biggest yield, it's about the most profitability,"
Both farmers encouraged beginning no-tillers/cover croppers to experiment on small fields with planting green and eliminating chemical inputs.
Christian Bench and Bridgett Hilshey, North Jersey RC&D Agricultural Specialists, discussed soil health and its impact on agricultural production. Their discussion emphasized the properties and benefits of organic matter, the general principals of regenerative agriculture. Hilshey noted that
"75% of soils in the region are losing organic matter every year. What what means is that in 30-years, the soil you are farming now may no longer be able to profitable. This trend threatens agricultural sustainability in New Jersey"
The conference included five breakout sessions lead by a variety of experts in the field.
Christian Bench, North Jersey RC&D Agricultural Specialist, shared the results of an ongoing Conservation Innovation Grant evaluating different methods of establishing cover crops noting that cover crop stands drilled in late October, after harvest, had better cover this year then aerially or interseeded multi-species cover crops established much earlier in the season.
Eric Rosenbaum, Certified Crop Adviser and Owner of Rosetree Consulting LLC, shared his expertise in cover crop termination; he encouraged participants to focus on not only increased production, but also reducing production costs, better efficiency, and improved sustainability.
Jon Stutzman, Owner of Stutzman Crop Care discussed the pros and cons of different species of cover crops in different crop systems.
Penn State Associate Professor of Entomology, John Tooker shared the results of his experiments in the relationship between insecticides and slug damage. His lab found that the neonicotinoid treatments depressed activity of insect predators, thereby relaxing predation of slugs and reducing soybean densities by 19 percent and crop yield by 5 percent.
"Slugs are among the most challenging pests faced by Mid-Atlantic no-till growers," said Tooker. "Our research reveals that neonicotinoids can indirectly increase slug damage to crops by poisoning insects that eat slugs. As a result, crop yields are lower."
Rodale Institute Director- Vegetable Systems Trial, Dr. Gladis Zinati, shared research from Rodale Institute into how to make cover crop and no-till work in organic and vegetable production systems.
This was the first statewide conference emphasizing no-till and cover crops in New Jersey, however events like this are common in other states. PA No-till Alliance (www.panotill.org) has been promoting the successful application of no-till through shared ideas, experiences, education and new technology. Planning for NJ conference drew heavily from the experience and expertise of members of a PA No-till Alliance. We hope that, like PA No-till, events promoting no-till and cover crops to NJ farmers will become a more regular occurrence in the state.
The conference, planned and implemented by North Jersey RC&D, was made possible through funding by the William Penn Foundation, Delaware River Watershed Initiative as well as generous support by local businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. Thank you!
If you interested in learning more about the benefits of no-till and cover crop to agricultural production, visit: https://www.northjerseyrcd.org/cover-crops
Read more about the conference in these online articles!
Maverick farmer focuses on profits, not yields
At the end of the day, Lucas Criswell is focused on his farm’s overall profitability, even if it means lower crop yields. Learn more at: https://www.farmprogress.com/crops/maverick-farmer-focuses-profits-not-yields
Burn it down or harvest for forage? Depends on cover crop goals
Eric Rosenbaum, owner of Rosetree Consulting, says cover crops should be used to enhance a farm’s profitability. Learn more at https://www.farmprogress.com/cover-crops/burn-it-down-or-harvest-forage-depends-cover-crop-goals
Seminar urges farmers to use no-till
Protecting the health of the soil and managing water on farm fields can be accomplished through no-till planting and utilizing the proper cover crops. Learn more at https://americanfarmpublications.com/seminar-urges-farmers-to-use-no-till/