Significant acres and farming operations in the northeast region of Alberta are livestock-based where annual crops are produced as feed and forage. There can be an associated manure amendment advantage, however continual cereal silage crops and greenfeed will export high levels of nutrients (soil-building organic matter) from the cropping system.
In these systems, rotational diversity can be low and intensive feeding costs high. A growing interest in specialty crops like corn for cows to graze as a standing crop left in the field has prompted Ron Heller, a reduced tillage agronomist, to take a particular interest in these operational dynamics. He has investigated the outcome for direct seeding in the Vermilion area, where in 2008 he was able to compare 2 different cropping systems for grazing corn, with some interesting and highly favourable results for low disturbance direct seeding, including:
Success with solid seeding (ie: airdrill compared to planter)
Precision-placement of nutrients (one-pass double-shoot nitrogen compared to separate NH3 band-applied)
High residue levels (standing stubble compared to harrowed and/or tilled seedbeds)
Click Here for an on-line Web Album slideshow that summarizes in-part some of Ron's findings.