These past couple of months have been hard on everyone with the current health crisis. Nothing is normal these days with kids going to school at home, people working from home and most of us staying away from our extended families.
Our board members have worked hard to keep our employees safe while still maintaining office productivity. Our office doors have been closed to the public since the end of March. This isn’t the way we normally do business; we are here to assist people with their soil and water concerns and issues. We have done our best to communicate with people by telephone and emails, but we all miss the face-to-face interaction with our landowners.
While none of us know what the summer and fall months hold for our SWCD events like First FARM Friday and our annual meeting and banquet, we are happy that we can move forward with a popular cost share program for our producers.
Cost share program
Once again this year, soil and water conservation districts in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District are coordinating a Cover Crop Cost Share program. SWCDs and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) will provide cost share for the seeding of cover crops on approved crop fields.
Soil and water conservation districts in the 16 counties that are part of the MWCD will ask producers to complete an application that will be ranked against others in the watershed. The cost share rate is $12 per acre with a cap of 200 acres per applicant, and new producers signing up fields that have not been signed up previously will receive $15 per acre if approved. Also, NRCS standards have to be followed for seeding rate and seeding dates.
New this year, soil test results must be supplied to SWCD staff for each field signed up to be eligible. Tests must be within the last four years and represent no more than 25 acres per test. Fields without soil tests will not be considered for ranking in 2020.
Also new on the ranking application is nutrient application records which are worth 20 points. To earn these points, producers must supply the SWCD with current crop records (nutrients applied for the crop currently planted in the field) for each field with date applied, product or analysis, and rate.
These changes are an effort by ODA to follow the H2Ohio program that will hopefully be available in our area in the next couple of years, and SWCD staff will work with you to complete your application.
A cover crop is an unharvested crop grown as part of a planned rotation to provide conservation benefits to the soil. Cover crops slow erosion, improve soil organic matter, smother weeds, enhance nutrient and moisture availability, help control many pests and reduce compaction.
At the same time they can help you increase yields, save on nitrogen costs, reduce trips across the field and also reap many additional agronomic benefits.
Cover crops can be seeded by a variety of ways, and this cost share program will allow any and all of those. There are generally two ways to seed covers: in the soil and on top of the soil.
Getting seed into the soil involves using either a drill, planter, or tillage tool with an attached seeder. The upside to this method is that it will usually result in a quality stand; the downside is it requires waiting until after harvest, and that can potentially turn into fighting wet or cold fall weather.
Seeding on top of the soil can be done with a spinner, high boy or an airplane. Advantages to this method are the cover can be seeded into a standing crop and, especially with an airplane, the seed will get there no matter the soil conditions. The downside to this method is that the stand may not be quite as good as if it was drilled or planted.
These tradeoffs are all things that a producer needs to consider when thinking about cover crops.
Keep this cost share program in mind if you are interested in cover crops. We realize this year you may not want to add any additional expenses, but if you decide the benefits of cover crops are worth it, keep this cost share program in mind.
Contact your local soil and water conservation district for further details and application deadlines. During these uncertain times, soil and water conservation districts are still working to keep soil healthy and productive. We are in the office to answer questions and if you need further assistance please call to confirm availability of local staff.
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