Larry Dyck is trying to make tough soil a little less tough.
It may sound like a simple objective, but it’s been a 40 year journey for the cash cropper, who operates Campden Grain with his son Ben, near Campden on Ontario’s Niagara peninsula.
Dyck, a member of the Ontario Soil Network, first started no-tilling soybeans and wheat in his heavy clay soil in the mid-1990s. “It will always be a clay soil but maybe we can manage it a little differently and make it more resilient to extreme moisture and drought conditions,” says Dyck.
Cover crops and maintaining ground cover are also a big part of the soil management strategy. In recent years, Dyck has taken it one step further by “planting green” — planting corn into a still-growing cover crop. After six years of planting green, he’s experienced the trials and tribulations of the system, but the journey has lead to an impressive 2021 crop.
On this episode of Real Agriculture’s Soil School, Dyck shares how he planted into a green cover crop of legumes, hairy vetch, crimson clover, and turnips. The cover crop was then burned down directly after planting to make way for the emerging corn. (Story continues after the video.)
Dyck notes that his planter “plants beautifully” into this cover while it’s still green. A dead or dying cover crop tends to be stringy, creating hair-pinning issues, he adds.
Dyck’s 2021 corn crop is stellar. He planted 31,000 seeds/ac and has a plant stand that numbers 27,000 plants/ac. In the interview, he discusses agronomic and engineering challenges and also identifies key success factors — from planter setup to planting depth.
After six years of planting green, Dyck is very enthusiastic. “If we can grow good crops then I can’t see a reason to go back… and yields will be our report card.”
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