While there was no time to build an ark to prepare for the most recent “Bomb Cyclone” that hit Nebraska and other areas of the Midwest, Noah Seim, who farms near Worms, Neb., said one of their fields successfully braved the storm because they had established a healthy stand of rye.
“First, I want to preface that we had flooding, but we did not have near the flooding other areas had,” said Seim. “What we did have was an 80 that dad planted to soybeans last year, three miles west of the home place. We drilled a cover crop of predominantly cereal rye in the mix right behind the combine into that field. That farm sits right along Prairie Creek at the top lateral of the field.”
“The ‘Bomb Cyclone’ went through here and it just rained and rained and rained. Our ground was so frozen, it could not take barely anything in at all. The creek came out of its banks and out of 75 farmable acres, 70 of them were underwater. It probably took about five days before the water was off the bottom end of the field. The rye survived, and the field came out of it. I cannot imagine what that field would have looked like if the rye had not been there.”
“The rye held everything in place,” he went on. “The soil stayed put and only the soybean residue had been washed around. So, I went out there with the field cultivator set down just at ground level and used it as a rake to grab the piles of residue and feather them out to expose the rye underneath in some areas. Even the rye underneath that was yellow came out of it.”
“That flooded field will go into commercial corn this year,” he said. “We will interseed a mix of 6 pounds of cereal rye and four pounds of red clover and will plant it at the V-4 stage. We are looking forward to seeing how things go this year and are so thankful for that rye crop.”
The Seims are also part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nebraska NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) Soil Health Initiative that is researching the effectiveness of agricultural practices such as cover crops on farms across the state. Seim explained, “We wanted to get a farm into the study to gain some more legitimacy to what we were already seeing in the field. By being in with NRCS and UNL, it only brings more people into seeing the benefits. It also brings in the ability to do the actual sampling and being verified and not just us sitting in the coffee shop telling people we are doing this. It’s the science behind it.”
Aaron Hird, soil health specialist with the USDA NRCS, said cover crops can provide many benefits to cropland. While not typically planted to prevent damage from flooding, he’s noted several Nebraska crop fields that would have fared far worse after March’s severe weather if not for having a cover crop established, “Cover crops protect the soil with living plant vegetation above and below ground. That protects the surface of the soil from heat, wind and rain – and in the case of Noah’s field – flooding.”
“We have had some people tell us what we are doing doesn’t work and that we are fools. That makes us strive harder at making it successful,” Seim said, adamantly. “When it comes to the research side of it, the research is the research. We will share the failures and successes. We are always looking at what we can do better.”