A recent drive along the eastern U.S. shore opened my eyes to the dramatic acceptance of cover crops and no-till among farmers in this area in boosting incomes and protecting the environment.
In mid-November, I was part of a photo workshop held at the Chincoteague wildlife refuge, which is located across the Maryland state line in Virginia. I’d flown into Baltimore and drove 3 1/2 hours south through the Delmarva Peninsula to the island located on the Atlantic Ocean. During the drive, I was amazed to see how no-till and cover crops were the accepted norm among farmers in this area.
1 There were only a few fields of corn that hadn’t been harvested, yet plenty of still-standing soybeans. I assumed most of these soybeans were double-cropped behind wheat or barley, with many beans still not mature as of mid-November.
University of Maryland soil scientist Ray Weil says Delmarva growers harvest corn ahead of full-season beans before combining double-cropped soybeans. Most Delmarva soybeans are later-maturing varieties than beans in the Midwest. Double-crop beans are no-tilled the same day wheat or barley is harvested, around July 1.
2 The other big surprise I noticed during the drive south from Baltimore was that corn fields were “greening up” with recently seeded wheat, barley or cover crops. There were no signs of intensive tillage that…