Cover crop establishment, management, and benefits were topics of classroom discussion and laboratory exercises for Richland Agriculture, Environmental Biology, and Carbon Capture and Storage students. Agriculture students established eight cover crop plots and one no cover crop plot and maintained all plots.
Seeding was conducted on September 27, and germination of all eight species was observed by October 7. Additionally, Agriculture faculty and students designed Demonstration Site and Research Site signage and presented cover crop benefits to Environmental Biology and Carbon Capture and Storage students in a November 17 laboratory exercise.
To provide baseline data on soil carbon storage, soil samples were taken from the nine 10 ft. x 20 ft. plots prior to seeding. From the soil samples, Agriculture and Environmental Biology students calculated carbon storage in soils for all plots in a November 17 laboratory exercise.
In the spring 2018 semester, soil carbon storage will again be calculated on all plots to determine which individual cover crop species resulted in the greatest soil carbon storage. These data will be compared to the cereal rye-rapeseed mix at the Research Site. Additionally, students calculated carbon storage in above-ground plant tissue for the eight cover crop species. These data were compared to the two-species mix at the Research Site.
To provide baseline data on soil carbon storage, soil samples were taken from all cover crop and no cover crop plots prior to seeding. On September 26, Krall Custom Farming seeded the two 10-acre cover crop plots. Germination of the cereal rye-rapeseed mix was observed on both plots by October 7. From the soil samples, Carbon Capture and Storage students calculated carbon storage in soils for all plots in a November 17 laboratory exercise.
In the spring 2018 semester, soil carbon storage will again be calculated on all plots. Data from cover crop and no cover crop plots will be analyzed to determine the effects of cover crops on soil carbon storage. Additionally, students calculated carbon storage in above-ground plant tissue for the two-species mix. These data were compared to the individual species at the Demonstration Site.
For the four 10-acre plots, Seever Farm Drainage, Inc. installed inspection ports on lateral tiles on September 18 to allow sampling of subsurface drainage for nitrate level.
Throughout September – November, nitrate sampling was attempted following rain events. However, due to limited precipitation, inspection ports contained no subsurface drainage from September – November. Nitrate sampling will continue to be attempted in spring 2018.
From September – November, the Cover Crops for Water Quality and Carbon Storage Project was highlighted in Richland public outreach activities as part of a combination of low carbon technologies/practices to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. Outreach activities include the following:
Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC)
MGSC is a partner in the Illinois Basin – Decatur Project (IBDP), which demonstrated the geologic storage of CO2 in Decatur, Illinois, by injecting one million tons of CO2 into a deep saline formation. On September 19, MGSC representatives visited the National Sequestration Education Center (NSEC) to discuss Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and alternative energy education and outreach activities, including carbon storage in geologic formations, plant tissue, and soils. All attendees were supportive of the cover crops project.
CarbonSAFE Illinois – Macon County Project
The CarbonSAFE Illinois – Macon County Project builds on the IBDP by evaluating the feasibility of commercial-scale (50 million tons) geologic storage of industrially sourced CO2. Richland Community College is a partner in the project and will conduct a comprehensive academic and outreach program for K-12, higher education, professional, and community audiences. The cover crops project will be included in the range of practices to reduce CO2 emissions.
Millikin University - Environmental Sociology
On October 17, Dr. David Larrick, Director of Sequestration Program, Richland Community College, was a guest speaker for the Environmental Sociology class at Millikin University in Decatur. Discussed were actions to reduce global CO2 emissions, including ethanol production with CCS, increased use of wind and solar energy, energy conservation, and cover crops.
Springfield Students Visit NSEC
On October 20, approximately 60 6th – 8th grade students from Springfield, Illinois, schools visited the NSEC to learn about CCS and renewable energy resources. Students conducted CO2 and wind energy experiments and were provided a site tour, including seismic display, geology cylinder, wind turbines, solar arrays, and the sustainability walkway, which contains a variety of native prairie vegetation. The multiple economic and environmental benefits of prairie plants and cover crops were discussed.
Millikin University – Environmental Biology
On November 9, Millikin University’s Environmental Biology class visited the NSEC to learn about CCS technology, renewable/sustainability features of the facility, and CCS coursework. Discussions included ethanol production with CCS, uses of CO2 including Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), seismic and ground penetrating radar surveys, how wind turbines and solar arrays work, ways to conserve energy, and economic and environmental benefits of restored prairie vegetation and cover crops.