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Business Is Booming For Cover Crop Experts
Adam Dahmer grew up on an Illinois farm that went 100 percent no-till in 1983 and started using cover crops in the late 90’s. Adam, his father Terry, and brother John have seen the benefits of that system every year on the family’s 1,300-acre farm. “Improved soil health, less erosion, more microbial activity, better use of nutrients, less compaction, higher yields, and more efficient water use. Those are the major benefits we’ve seen on our farm,” says Adam.
  In the winter of 2012-2013, after realizing that their crops withstood the previous year’s drought much better than conventionally-cropped land, Terry Dahmer decided to design a cover crop seeding system to fit his Miller Nitro 5240 high-clearance sprayer. Adam took that as a sign of opportunity and launched a business called Advance Cover Crops to supply seed to other farmers who showed an interest in the concept. He launched a website that shows several photos of cover crop activity on their farm. The site also includes information on several types of seed and references to research and articles on cover cropping.
  “I don’t claim to be an expert,” says Adam, who has a degree in construction management and a minor in ag economics, “because for every one thing we learn there are several more questions that present themselves. I’m able to build from our 15-year family history of cover cropping and combine that with things learned from training sessions, my cover crop agronomist, and other farmers who share their experiences on different cover crops. In this new frontier of agriculture there are far more questions than answers, and my goal is to supply customers with high quality seed, answer any questions that producers may have, and do my best to make their venture into cover crops as easy and as successful as possible.”
  Dahmer says his market is customers in southern Illinois, the bootheel of Missouri, and western Kentucky. “Most people order product by phone and pick it up in person because they want to see who they’re buying from,” says Adam.
  In the fall of 2013 they seeded 45 to 50 lbs. of cereal rye and and 8 to 9 lbs. of hairy vetch into corn about a month before harvest. Soybeans received 10 to 11 lbs. of annual rye and 6 to 7 lbs. of crimson clover just as they were starting to yellow before maturity. At soybean harvest the ground was just turning green and at corn harvest the cereal rye was 2 to 5 in. tall.  
  “Cereal rye is an excellent cover crop in corn ahead of soybeans because it’s a nitrogen scavenger that pulls that elusive nutrient into its roots and binds it up for next year’s crop use,” says Adam. In the spring of 2014 the Dahmer’s terminated the cover crops with glyphosate. They planted corn a week after spraying and planted soybeans just 2 to 3 days after spraying. The new plants grew in seed furrows opened up in the mat of of dying grass, absorbing moisture and nutrients and thriving in the soil protected from erosion. Adam admits the first few times they used this method they were nervous about seed stands and early season growth. “Seeds germinate and grow a little slower than conventional tillage because the soil is cooler, but a few weeks later things even out and the plants really take off.”
  Adam says a person starting with cover crops shouldn’t expect a yield bump in the first year of cover cropping, but improved yields are likely to show up down the road. “The immediate big benefits are in erosion control, nutrient uptake and weed control,” he says.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Adam Dahmer, 14656 Pittsburg Rd., Marion, Ill. 62959 (ph 618 922-7446; www.advancecovercrops.com).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #5