While standing in a field on Basstown Road, a group of interested growers learned how the soil under their feet can help farmers throughout Sampson County.
During a Cover Crop Field Day, participants traveled to Jason Tyndall’s farm which is involved in a three-year research and trial program. Tuesday’s session was hosted by the Sampson County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) — Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) in Clinton. Cover crops serve as a placeholder for cash crops, during the year, which comes with many growing benefits.
“It’s like the forest … you go to the woods and it’s always something growing,” said Dwayne Faircloth, a NRCS Soil Conservation technician. “The field wants something growing all the time to support everything below the surface. There’s just as much below the surface as there is above the surface.”
Presenters emphasized the importance of soil health. Some of the topics focused on crop selection, water impacts and nutrients. Cover crops such as clovers, ryegrass, black oats and winter peas help with issues such as nitrogen fixation. A mixture of these plants are displayed at the farm, which profits from corn production.
“We’re trying to address multiple issues out here, with everything from erosion to compaction to building soil health,” Faircloth said.
The trial program is now in its second year. Through the research Faircloth and others want to show people in Sampson County that there’s cover crop options through the 12-acre site ,with 16 plots on Tyndall’s farm.To show growth stages and the advantages of starting early, an early plant date began in late September and another followed in early December.
“We’re going to have a lot of data by the end of this three-year project,” said Gavin Thompson, NRSC resource conservationist. “We’re hoping that this gives more of an open eye to what to address.”
Along with Thompson and Faircloth, some of the participants included Dr. Chris Redberg-Horton from the North Carolina State University (NCSU) Crop Science Department; Dr. Carl Crozier, of NCSU Soil Science Department and Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center; Brad Hardison, agriculture and horticulture agent for Sampson Extension; and Della King, a field crop extension agent.
NRCS assist local farmers with a cost-sharing program during the year. The organization worked with Tyndall and helped him plant rows of cover crops with different dates and species. One of the goals of the cover crop study is to help local farmers decode what fits best in people’s growing rotations.
“With Sampson County being a large tobacco, sweet potato and peanut area, we’re looking for cover crops that will fit in after they’re harvested, but yet still address issues or concerns that they have,” Faircloth said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.