Collaborating Producer: Thomas & Laura Claydon (MD of Smoky River)
Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye
From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2015 Annual Report
Cover crops are an important tool that farmers can use to generate benefits and services on the farm and for society, including improved soil health, nutrient supply to cash crops, weed suppression, insect pest management, forage production, pollinator resources, and clean water and air. There are many different cover crop species to choose from, and each cover crop species has different abilities to provide the services described above. Cocktail cover cropping involves using complex mixtures of cover crop seeds, which can be up to 5, 7, 8 or even 15 or 20 varieties of seed in a single mix - to achieve multiple soil-health, production and profit goals, usually in no-till farming systems.
The demonstration site was at Thomas & Laura Claydon’s farm, MD of Smoky River. Demonstration strip design was used on a 5-acre piece of land. The soil analysis (0-6” soil depth) done by Exova Laboratory, Edmonton prior to seeding this year showed a pH of 6.2 and an OM of 7.65%. The analysis also showed that the soil was deficient in N and P. The land was hayland prior to 2014. The land was disced in spring of 2014 and 2015. The collaborating producer (Thomas) seeded crop mixes containing 2-8 crop species against a single species oat crop (please see Table 1 below).
Seeding was done with a Melroe double disc press drill (14-ft wide) at 6” row spacing on June 7 into dry soil at approximately 3/4 inch depth. No fertilizer was applied.
As with most parts of the Peace in 2015, the site was also very dry, so no forage yield was determined, but forage samples were taken from the plots using 5 randomly placed 0.25 m x 0.25 m quadrats/plot when barley was at the soft dough stage. Composite forage samples were taken per treatment, dried and later shipped to Central Testing Laboratory Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba for feed quality analysis using standard laboratory procedures for wet chemistry.