Thursday, October 16, 2014

Student Research: Cover Crops & Hayfields

The Agroecology lab, Master's student Myers Shaiyen, and Vicky Stafford of the Strafford County Conservation District are working on a project to establish cover crops in existing hayfields in order to improve soil health in those fields. We are working with a broad mixture of species and several approaches to seed establishment. There is a a nice overview of the work by Lori Wright, featured in an article for the NH Agricultural Experiment Station.

Disturbing the soil in Dover, NH, using an Aerway aerator. 

A short excerpt from the article:
“We are trying to figure out ways to practice agriculture sustainably. The conventional approach to increasing hayfield productivity would be to apply chemical fertilizers or manure, or to use tillage to establish the cover crops; however, these approaches would likely not improve soil health over the long term and could have unintended environmental impacts. So instead of relying on external inputs and tillage, we are testing strategies aimed at ‘ecological intensification,’ which involves using biotic interactions among species to drive improvement in fertility, productivity, and soil quality. Ideally, such an approach would not only improve productivity and soil health, but also other ecological services that underpin agricultural sustainability and human wellbeing,” -Rich Smith

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