A Farmer’s Guide For Healthy Communities
Posted 1 week ago

A Farmer's Guide for Healthy Communities is available now! The Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) is proud to announce that its new Agricultural Stormwater BMP Guide, entitled "A Farmer's Guide for…

Manure Management Workshop
Posted 1 month ago

The Berks County Conservation District is hosting this workshop to guide participants through the process of completing a plan for their farm in order to be in compliance with Pennsylvania…

Manure Management Workshop
Spring Creek Farms Field Walk
Posted 2 months ago

On August 7, the Stroud Water Research Center and Berks County Conservation District hosted a Best Management Practice Walk and Talk Session at Spring Creek Farms in Heidelberg Township as…

Spring Creek Farms Field Walk
What Cover Crop Should I Plant?
Posted 2 months ago

                     What Cover Crop Should I Plant?
Re-posted from Penn State Extension's Field Crops Newsletter, August 26, 2014.  Click here for original…

What Cover Crop Should I Plant?
Learn about Rain Barrels
Posted 3 months ago

Want to learn learn more about Rain Barrels? Check out this YouTube video of our Watershed Coordinator, Kate Keppen, on Comcast Newsmakers.  To learn more about our Rain Barrel Program,…

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A Farmer’s Guide For Healthy Communities

Farmer's guide for healthy communities

A Farmer’s Guide for Healthy Communities is available now! The Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) is proud to announce that its new Agricultural Stormwater BMP Guide, entitled “A Farmer’s Guide for Healthy Communities” is now available online! Click here for a PDF version of the guide or go to the SAN website for more information.

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Manure Management Workshop

Morgantown MMM (final)

The Berks County Conservation District is hosting this workshop to guide participants through the process of completing a plan for their farm in order to be in compliance with Pennsylvania Chapter 91.

Chapter 91 regulates nutrient and sediment pollution control and prevention at agricultural operations. According to this law any farm in Pennsylvania that generates or applies manure to crop fields or pastures, regardless of the size of the operation, must have a written Manure Management Plan. This includes livestock and poultry operations, small hobby farms (sheep, goats, llamas, etc.), and horse owners.

A Manure Management Plan describes how a landowner is safely applying manure and managing pastures to prevent any excess manure or nutrients from entering streams, wells, or other sensitive areas.

Manure Management Plans can be prepared by the landowner themselves but the process can be cumbersome. By attending this strictly educational workshop, local residents will get assistance from the Conservation District in completing and implementing their plans.

Please click here to learn more about the workshop and how to sign up for it.

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Spring Creek Farms Field Walk

On August 7, the Stroud Water Research Center and Berks County Conservation District hosted a Best Management Practice Walk and Talk Session at Spring Creek Farms in Heidelberg Township as part of the District’s new FARM program (Farmers Achieving Resource Management). The Field Day took place at an organic dairy farm owned by Forrest and Greg Stricker who graze their cows and chickens year around. Click here to read the entire article.

 

 

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What Cover Crop Should I Plant?

                     What Cover Crop Should I Plant?

Re-posted from Penn State Extension’s Field Crops Newsletter, August 26, 2014.  Click here for original post. 

Keep your goals in mind when selecting cover crops and cover crop mixtures.

Dwarf BMR Forage Sorghum, Annual ryegrass, Crimson Clover and Radishes seeded late July 2013 after Sweet corn. Mixture was green chopped for cattle feed in September. Remaining annual ryegrass and crimson clover over wintered and was burned down in April.

Cover crops can help improve soil quality, save manure nitrogen or fix nitrogen for the following crop, supply rescue forage and can lead to improved ground and surface water quality.  Cover crops have a host of benefits, but there isn’t a single species that does it all.  You need to determine what your goal is for your field and select a cover crop species that will do that.  Secondly you need to plant it at the appropriate time so it has sufficient time to do what you intended it to do.  Cover crops are just like cash crops, they respond well to moderate to high fertility and good available moisture; a field that has low fertility will have a marginal cover crop growth as well.  Fields with a history of manure applications or planned applications are excellent locations for cover crops.

What’s your goal?

  • Nitrogen fixation (legumes)
  • Nitrogen scavenging (grasses taking up and storing leftover N from soil)
  • Soil Building (organic matter and soil structure improvement)
  • Erosion Fighting (soil-holding ability of roots and vegetation)
  • Weed Fighting
  • Forage/Grazing
  • Quick Growth
  • Alleviate Compaction
  • Reduce Nematodes
  • Attract Beneficial Insects

What goals cover crops achieve

Nonlegumes/Grasses (Annual ryegrass, Barley, Oats, Rye, Wheat, Buckwheat and Sorghum-sudan)

Roles:  Most scavenge nitrogen, improve soil organic matter and soil structure, prevent erosion and provide forage.  Grasses have relatively quick growth.

Legumes (Berseem clover, Cowpeas, Crimson clover, Field peas, Hairy vetch, Medics, Red clover, Subterranean clover, Sweet clovers, White clover and Woollypod vetch)

Roles:  Fix nitrogen, improve soil organic matter and soil structure, prevent erosion and provide forage.
Legumes typically have slower growth than grasses.

Brassicas (Mustards, Radish and Rapeseed)

Roles:  Prevent erosion, suppress weeds and soilborne pests, alleviate soil compaction and scavenge nutrients

You likely have heard that mixtures of different cover crop species are good, but what is a good mixture and how do you plant it?

Again it comes down to the time of the year and your location.  Generally it is a good idea to plant at least one grass and one legume species and to have one of them survive the winter to provide the soil protection over winter with an actively growing crop come spring time.  Also consider adding a brassica to the grass and legume mixture for more diversity.  There are many premixed cover crop mixtures on the market. Some of them are listed below.

  • Annual ryegrass and crimson clover
  • Radish, crimson clover and annual ryegrass
  • Radish and annual ryegrass
  • Radish and crimson clover
  • Radish and oats; oats
  • Crimson clover and radish
  • Red, ladino, and sweet clover
  • Annual ryegrass, crimson clover, red clover, radish, sweet clover
  • Hairy vetch and oats
  • Cereal rye and hairy vetch
  • Triticale and annual ryegrass
  • Peas, oats and hairy vetch

Cover crop seed mixture

Seed mixture of annual ryegrass, crimson clover, and forage radish.

Most species will have the best chance to germinate and survive if they are drilled into the soil, many smaller seeded species will do okay broadcasted if there is adequate moisture after seeding. Often larger seeded species will be planted in the large grain box on the grain drill and the small seeded species will be planted in the small seed box of the drill, however in a mixture depending on the size of the largest seed you may need to use the small grain box.  As a general rule do not plant the seed deeper more than 2.5 times its diameter.  It is okay to see a few small seeds on the surface of the soil; that means most of them are planted at the correct depth.

Remember that every year is different, what worked last year might not work this year.  By planting multiple species of cover crops you spread out your risk of a crop failure and will likely have at least one of the cover crops growing successfully.  Don’t be afraid to try something new and different on a few acres; just don’t plant the whole farm with one species on the same day if possible.  Plant cover crops as soon as the primary crop is harvested to capture as much growing time as possible before winter arrives.

Contact Information

Andrew Frankenfield
  • Agricultural Educator
Phone: 610-489-4315
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Rain Barrels on Comcast Newsmakers!

Want to learn learn more about Rain Barrels? Check out this YouTube video of our Watershed Coordinator, Kate Keppen, on Comcast Newsmakers.  To learn more about our Rain Barrel Program, Click Here.

 

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New guidelines for REAP applications

The new guidelines for REAP applications were recently announced.

COMPLETED projects – New applications for completed projects will be accepted by the Commission on
a first-come, first-served basis beginning on August 4, 2014.

PROPOSED projects – New applications for proposed projects will be accepted beginning on August 25, 2014.

For more details click here.

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We are on Facebook

Follow us on Facebook to keep up on all the latest news about soil and water conservation.  See the latest videos about farm conservation, education events near you, and events held by the Conservation District.  You can check out the page by clicking the My Page button above, once there follow us using the like button to keep getting updates about the district.

We also are unveiling our West Nile Virus Facebook page.  Given last years mosquito season, you may want to be kept up to date on all the latest news about our West Nile Virus vector program.  You can also learn about the transmission cycle of West Nile Virus and prevention measures to reduce mosquito populations.

BCCD West Nile Virus Facebook Page

 

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Conservation Districts and Agriculture

The Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Inc. (PACD) has  released “Conservation Districts Sustain Agriculture: A Farmer’s Story.” The two-and-a-half minute video highlights the types of work districts do to support the state’s residents and the economy.

“This video, while short in length, is long in reach and explains how the districts help sustain the state’s number one industry: agriculture,” said PACD Executive Director Robert Maiden. “Many times, the conservation districts assist farmers with their nutrient management plans and installation of best management practices (BMPs) so they can stay productive. Agriculture feeds families.”

PACD is asking the legislature provide funding through the state’s general fund to support the districts’ work in 66 Pennsylvania counties.

“Conservation Districts Sustain Agriculture: A Farmer’s Story”

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Drinking Water Awareness

The Water Resources Education Network (WREN) recently completed a three minute video designed to educate and encourage residents to become proactive and ask community leaders and water systems across Pennsylvania to put common sense protection measures in place to enhance the safety, reliability and sustainability of local water supply sources. Developed with assistance from GreenTreks Network Inc. and suitable for all audiences, watch the three minute video and please share.

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