Cover crops planted in rotation with main crops can help farmers reduce erosion and replenish nutrients in the soil, and cover crops are increasingly being considered for biofuel feedstocks.
Visitors can learn more about these benefits of cover crops at an expanded cover crops demonstration plot beside the J.D. Harrington Crops, Soils and Conservation Building at Ag Progress Days, August 12-14.
"We're also starting to consider cover crops more for their potential use in forage production," said Marvin Hall, professor of forage management and coordinator of the Crops, Soils and Conservation Area at Ag Progress Days.
According to Hall, cover crop varieties growing in the plot include annual ryegrass; a mix of tillage radish, sunn hemp and sorghum-sudangrass; a mix of tillage radish and triticale; a mix of tillage radish and oats; phacelia; sunn hemp; a mix of annual ryegrass, tillage radish and crimson clover; hairy vetch; sorghum-sudangrass; pearl millet; fava bean; Austrian pea; and a mix of crimson clover and ryegrass.
An interseeder developed by Penn State will demonstrate one method used to plant cover crops. Hall noted that an interseeder can plant cover crops in fields where established crops are already growing. A planter with a built-in roller-crimper, manufactured by innovator Charles Martin, will also be featured.
"This is an innovation in agricultural machinery," Hall said. "Both pieces of equipment help integrate cover cropping into our cropping systems. It is good for soil quality and soil conservation."
The 2-year-old J.D. Harrington Building, named for the late Joseph D. Harrington, professor emeritus of agronomy and former Ag Progress Days manager, is home to several exhibits and activities highlighting conservation and crops management. The structure, located at Harrington Lane and the end of East 5th Street, was dedicated at last year's Ag Progress Days.
The Crops, Soils and Conservation Building includes a wide variety of topics--from crops and animals to forest management--for visitors of any age. It will house exhibits staffed by organizations related to soil and crop management, as well as aspects of conservation such as forestry, water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and wildlife.
Hall noted that there will be several attractions in the area, including the "no-till corral," showcasing equipment used in no-till agriculture, a butterfly garden, live animals and plots of warm-season grasses and forages.
"No-till agriculture continues to gain new ground in Pennsylvania," Hall said. "Farming without tillage saves the soil, improves soil quality and reduces energy inputs."
Growing quality forages is key to raising productive and healthy cattle, sheep, goats, horses and other livestock on a farm, Hall pointed out. "The hay producers can bring samples to be evaluated during the hay show. These samples must have been grown in Pennsylvania in 2014 by the exhibitor. Entries officially close at 10 a.m. on August 12, but exhibitors are encouraged to bring their samples in on August 11 before the show begins." You can see the hay brochure for this year at http://agsci.psu.edu/apd/pdfs/2014-hay-show-brochure
Sustainable agriculture will also be represented, and visitors can meet with the experts from Penn State, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Pennsylvania Certified Organic and have questions answered.
Information on composting, biofuels, watering systems, plants that attract pollinators and deer management strategies will also be available.
The corn maze will also return to the Crops, Soils and Conservation area. As always, it is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
Crop and conservation topics will also be featured in other areas of the Ag Progress Days site. Tours focused on managing deer and other wildlife as part of a Quality Deer Management system will leave daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with an additional tour at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
A tour on water quality and riparian buffers will leave daily at 11:30 a.m. All tours will leave from the corn crib at the top of Main Street.
Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on August 12; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on August 13; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on August 14. Admission and parking are free.
For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website at http://apd.psu.edu
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