How many times have you heard something at a meeting and wanted to find out more information? How about when you are in the field and need to find out the optimal soil temperature for seeding oats? Believe it or not, there are resources to help even the most inexperienced farmer find out this information.
Here are four ways to gain more information to help you answer questions about soil conservation techniques and programs. Kris Vance, communication specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, provided this information on behalf of the Indiana Conservation Partnership.
1. Check out the Midwest Cover Crops Council website and app. This website is a receptacle for all cover crop information. A lot of this information was collected and developed through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education website. Now the website is bundled up into a handy app that can be installed on your smartphone. Also, if you are less technical, there’s a book from SARE called “Managing Cover Crops Profitably” that has much of the same information. Visit mccc.msu.edu.
2. Use the Purdue pocket field guides. Always keep these field guides with you. They can help determine crop growth stages and crop diseases, calculate growing degree days and estimate yields. There are the Corn & Soybean Field Guide, the Wheat Field Guide and the Cover Crop Field Guide. Go to the Purdue Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center and click on "DTC publications." There are also apps for corn scouting, soybean scouting and cover crops. There is a minimal charge for each.
3. Invest in a shovel. Look in the soil and look at your soil structure. You learn more when you get out of your truck and get in the field and dig and observe.
4. Invest in a soil thermometer. Not only is this useful in the spring, but it’s also eye-opening in the summer, when high temperatures can cause unprotected fields to have soil temps over 100 degrees F.
Most soil conservationists say maximum soil temperatures in fields protected by residue will be significantly lower.