4/21/2012 10:00 AM
By Stefan Hess Special to Lancaster Farming
On a sunny, breezy, chilly April day, researchers, professors, farmers and students taking Delaware Valley College’s field crops I course gathered on the college’s farm to view and hear results of a Penn State University experiment on cover-crop mixes.
DelVal has been a cooperator with Penn State on this study, serving as one of the many trial locations across the state.
Sjoerd Duiker, Penn State Extension specialist, and Andrew Frankenfield, Penn State agricultural Extension agent for Montgomery County, explained that this experiment will enable farmers to select high performing cover-crop mixes in their specific region.
Planting an overwintering cover crop sequesters nitrogen, holding it for the next growing season and preventing leaching into ground water. A growing crop also stops soil erosion and diminishes weed establishment.
Cover crops provide long-term benefits by improving soil quality but burden farmers with immediate costs of seed, equipment and labor. However, many of the cover-crop mixes that Penn State is testing double as fall and spring forages, providing cost savings to farmers through farm-produced feed in addition to environmental benefits.
In addition to seeing trial plots and listening to research results, Del Val students assisted Duiker and Frankenfield in collecting samples of the various cover-crop mixes for lab analysis.
Stefan Hess is a Delaware Valley College graduating senior majoring in agribusiness. Upon graduation, he plans to serve as the agricultural instructor at the Bezaleel School in Guatemala with Eastern Mennonite Missions. He can be contacted at hessps5281<\@>delval.edu.