Frost Seeding Cover Crops
Frost seeding is broadcasting cover crop seed over a frozen soil surface and letting the freezing and thawing incorporate the seed into the soil profile. For hard seed (seed that is difficult to germinate), the freezing and thawing may break down the seed coat and improve germination.

Soil Health Terms

Soil health can be hard to understand if you do not know the lingo or terminology. Talking to a doctor, sometimes you need a dictionary to know what they are saying. Heres a short primer on soil health terms. Soil health is defined by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.

Maximizing Factors that Influence Crop Yield

Farmers consistently attempt to increase crop yields but may not know which factors are important. Yield is influenced by climate and temperature, plant and water management, and soil nutrient management factors.

Is Soil Health Real

Sceptics of soil health abound in agriculture. After World War II, farmers became reliant on inorganic fertilizer to improve crop yields. Soil organic matter (SOM) levels were still high, so an investment in fertilizer gave big yields.

Inter-Seeding Cover Crops into Corn

Getting a good cover crop stand after harvest can be difficult, so farmers are inter-seeding cover crops early into standing corn. Benefits include erosion control, extra nitrogen from legumes or clovers, using grasses as nitrogen scavengers, weed suppression, and livestock forage (grazed or hayed).

Bio Stimulants

Bio-stimulants include both bacterial and fungal inoculants, various types of compost, and organic adjuvants that stimulate plant growth and improve yield. Farmers have been using bacteria inoculants containing Rhizobia bacteria on legumes and clovers like soybeans, alfalfa, and red clover for many years.

Using Humic Substances to Imporve Plant Growth

Soil organic matter (SOM) is carbon compounds from living organisms are decomposing or the dead bodies of microbes, small animals, and plants. A fertile soil has between 2% (sandy soil) to 8% (clay soil) SOM which contains essential minerals needed for plant growth. Humic (carbon) substances are vital to soil fertility and plant nutrition.

Cover Crops Benefit Wildlife

Cover crops provide many species of wildlife with food and shelter. If you want to maximize wildlife benefits, avoid cover crop monocultures. Cover crop diversity and interspersion are keys to improving wildlife habitat.

Healthy Soils Suppress Pets

Farmers who improve soil health increase the amount of soil carbon being stored, and recycled. The increased carbon flow increases microbial numbers and efficiency leading to improved plant photosynthesis. The entire soil ecosystem functions at a higher level.

Stop Tilling to Improve Soil Health

No-tilling corn is a difficult transition for most farmers. When farmers start no-tilling, the transition time may last 3-7 years and corn yields may often be reduced during that transition period. An alternative is to strip till the soil which gives a farmer some of the benefits of each tillage system.

Reducing Soil Compaction

Indian Summer is here with warmer temperatures and some sunlight as farmers try to finish up harvest. A lot of field work is being done including deep and shallow tillage.

Corn and Soybean Cover Crop Management

As fall harvest progresses, farmers are looking ahead to next years crop. Corn and soybean farmers utilizing no-till and/or cover crops may need to make different management decisions than conventional tillage farmers.

The Smell of Rain and Microbes

After a dry summer, the smell of rain is often refreshing but maybe a little less so to farmers at harvest time! People can often sense it is going to rain. This pre-rain smell comes from ozone formed when oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere is spilt through electrical charges in the clouds to form ozone (O3).

Breaking Through to the Root Cause of Compacted Soil

Jim Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services discusses how to use soil health and cover crops to improve soil structure and reduce soil compaction.

Soil Health Indicators

How do I know if my soil is healthy and what are indicators of soil health ? Plants thrive in healthy soils and are not overtaken by pests (weeds, insects, diseases).

Planting Cover Crops Late

As harvest progresses, its not too late to plant cover crops, but the options are becoming more limited. Most cover crops need a minimum of 60 days of growth before cold freezing winter weather limits growth.

Ohio No-Till News

The Ohio No-till Conference will be held December 3rd at the Der Dutchman in Plain City.  Jim Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services will speak for 30 minutes on Vole Control.  In person participation is limited to 150 people, but the program will also be offered virtually on the web.

Cover Crops Enhance Soil Health

Fall harvest has started but farmers also need to think about planting cover crops. USDA-SARE publication (10 Ways Cover Crops Enhance Soil Health) states "Cover crops lead to better soil health and potentially better farm profits."Here is a 10-point summary.

Reducing Nitrogen Runoff

After a dry summer, reduced corn yields generally results in excess soil nitrogen (N) and excess N leaching in the fall, winter, and spring. Most farmers fertilize for maximum yields and hope that the weather cooperates.

Maximizing Wheat Production

Achieving higher grain yields requires a combination of good genetics with a good environment. The full genetic potential of many crops is severely limited by poor environmental conditions especially due to poor soil structure, too much or too little water, and the availability of essential nutrients.

Cover Crop Economics

Many farmers ask what is the value of planting cover crops on my farm? A common question with many answers. Cover crops have many benefits and uses, so the answer varies by farm field and farming operation.

Vegetation and Reproductive Plant Growth

As summer winds down, gardeners and farmers are harvesting their crops. The dry weather has reduced yields but crops have a higher sugar content due to the concentration of plant sugars from less water.