2022 Research Update for WSA

December 28, 2022
GO Seed
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It has been an amazing first year of my time at GO Seed. I have been invigorated with the joys of research that is driven by farmers questions and challenges and is not solely reliant on getting the next big grant.

The general aims of our cover crop research has been to understand how plants can help farmers solve production challenges, testing the management practices to make it work, and then breeding plants that are even better at performing specific tasks. To help in that third prong we have pulled out the big guns and hired a Plant Breeder to join our research team. It has been a joy to envision projects and collaborate efforts with Dr. Trent Tate.

We are just getting started and I feel that the passion, energy, and knowledge that Trent brings to the role will be a great benefit for our turf, forage, and cover crop businesses. Below is our press release, in case you missed it.

Roots Break Barriers


In the fall of 2021, we started a project we refer to as #RootsBreakBarriers. We assessed five cover crop treatments to determine which, if any, can fix either of two major soil challenges, compaction, or a zone of low pH. We created simulated soil profiles within clear sleeves placed into PVC tubes that were sunk in the ground to provide realistic weather conditions and soil insulation. One soil profile simulated a compacted soil with a bulk density layer of 1.6 g/cm3 which is considered root restrictive, another soil setting had layers with very low soil pH, to a minimum of 3.7. We used a control soil setting with no root restriction, and a plant control in each soil setting that had no cover crop.

At the end of May we cut the above ground biomass of each cover crop treatment to weigh and analyze the biomass. We then cut open 72 tubes into 6 soil horizons. We measured the compaction or pH that we achieved in each soil setting and cleaned the roots to weigh them for biomass.

Meanwhile, the remaining 216 tubes in the ground had corn planted into them. Our goal was to determine if a cash crop would do better following any of our cover crop treatments in either of the soil settings.

The most interesting result we found was that in the low pH soil setting all three cover crop treatments that included Lonestar Annual Ryegrass had a pH roughly 1 pH unit higher than the other treatments.

Even more exciting, the Lonestar treatments had higher corn biomass and ear mass than the other treatments.

This appears to be an unexplained phenomenon and we have now started two follow-up trials. For the follow up we will assess if this is a characteristic of Lonestar, or other annual ryegrasses, if this occurs with perennial ryegrass, or is a general characteristic of grasses. We will be testing these questions in the tubes and a field trial.


This appears to be an unexplained phenomenon and we have now started two follow-up trials. For the follow up we will assess if this is a characteristic of Lonestar, or other annual ryegrasses, if this occurs with perennial ryegrass, or is a general characteristic of grasses. We will be testing these questions in the tubes and a field trial.

In the compacted soil we saw tremendous capacity of our new experimental variety, GO-TRT hybrid Turnip, able to punch through the compaction. All cover crop treatments resulted in more biomass and bigger corn ears than without a cover crop.

Check out those roots to the right.
Watch the full presentation on our YouTube channel youtube.com/c/GOSeed

Panels; A) Process of created layers of high bulk density. Same mass of soil in these columns, one has been compacted. B) Overhead picture of the cover crops growing in the tubes in the ground. C) First soil horizon after removal from tube, before further processing. D) Midway through cleaning roots. E) GO-TRT roots visible below the compacted soil

Root Visualization

The next research project in our “Tubes in the Ground” series is simply measuring the rate of root elongation, degree of branching, and root diameter. The unique apparatus of pvc tubes sunk into the ground allows us to pack specific soil profiles into clear plastic tubes that can experience realistic environmental conditions. We find that the roots follow a path along the inside of the tube wall, which makes it very easy to observe root growth. We seeded four replications of 21 varieties of plants into the tubes and have taken measurements once a week since planting. Initial planting took place on Sept 28rd, with replanting on Oct 10th for those that didn’t germinate the first time.

The first thing that popped out at me was the rapid elongation of all the brassicas we tested. Twelve days after planting, two of the replicates of the Driller Daikon radish were over 16 inches deep and two of our newest brassica variety, GO-TRT, were over 10 inches deep. At our measurement four weeks after planting, the GO-TRT was the first to reach the bottom of the tube which is a full 33 inches in depth. I was also impressed by the rapid growth and root diameter of the Survivor Winter Pea roots. The most unexpected to me was the rapid growth and vigor of the Phacelia roots. At our next measurement date, we will include data on branching, root diameter, and the number of roots observed at depth.

Through this simple study we will be able to describe a process that is normally invisible. We are already making plans to use a similar set-up for breeding selections. When looking for plant vigor and stress tolerance, being able to visualize the roots is expected to give us a unique advantage.

FIXatioN Nitrogen Timing


Spending money on cover crops can save money on the fertilizer bill. However, a farmer needs to know how much and when that nitrogen will become plant available before they take the risk of reduced fertilizer rates. Determining these answers is the primary goal of our #FixatioNNTiming project.

We assessed the quantity and timing of nitrogen availability from Fixation Balansa Clover. Similar, but smaller trials were also conducted at 5 other locations. In this trial we tested four different methods of termination: glyphosate, tillage, mowing and leaving the biomass, or mowing and removing the biomass. Each of those methods was used on May 11, May 24, and June 2.

Partnering with the USDA-ARS we were able to use a LiCor machine to measure greenhouse gas emissions throughout the growing season. Early observations indicate that the plots without Fixation growing had higher nitrous oxide emissions. We eagerly await further analysis of this massive amount of GHG data.

It doesn’t matter how many times you hear it, until you grow it, you don’t realize how explosive the growth of Fixation is in the late Spring. At each termination time the total biomass and C:N ratio of Fixation was measured. From May 11th to June 2nd the biomass increased from an average of 29 inches to 61 inches tall and the dry mass went from 2.9 tons to 8.5 tons of dry biomass per acre.

Two weeks after planting the corn into all plots, we took soil samples and incubated them in the lab to measure how much N becomes plant available and how much work the microbes are doing. Preliminary analysis shows that the timing of the termination strongly influences the N availability, but the termination method does not. We will replicate this trial for another two years. Stay tuned.

Panels; A) Placing the square to take early biomass samples. B) Cutting the biomass from square and setting on tarp for weighing biomass. C) Shannon using LiCor to measure GHG in December. D) Termination by tillage. E) Goats enjoying removed biomass


Perennial Falcata Alfalfa with Strip Tilled Corn

After several years of success with our experimental variety of upright falcata alfalfa, GO-FU, as a perennial cover crop, we expanded our testing. Starting in the fall of 2021 we have had ongoing trials in Michigan, South Dakota, Ohio, and Iowa. Each of these has a slightly different major focus but all are aimed at determining the best ways to use Falcata as a perennial cover crop.

In South Dakota the aim is to evaluate both the corn row spacing and the N requirement. What we learned after the first year is that young falcata will die from a full rate of Glyphosate when applied around April of its first year. This lesson was re-iterated with the results from the Ohio trial. They had a good stand established in the fall but chemical application too early in the season will knock it out altogether.


These trials have inspired follow-up trials focused on herbicide management. Starting the fall of 2022 we established trials in Richland, IA and Wooster, OH to determine the tolerance of GO-FU, Aberlasting Clover and Dynamite Red Clover to glyphosate, glufosinate, and 2,4-D. We will assess efficacy at two different times, immediately prior to planting corn, and around v6. At each application time we will apply each herbicide on the low end of the recommended rate and at the high end of the recommended rate. We expect this to be a major tool to help guide producers on how to effectively establish and maintain each of these varieties as perennial cover crops.

The trial in Michigan is comparing GO-FU to sativa alfalfa as an intercropping system for dairy silage. The crop yield and feed quality will be evaluated along with nitrogen credits and impacts on soil health. The first round of harvest was just completed, so stay tuned for more data.

For the first time this year, the corn grown with the falcata was not as vigorous as the corn grown without falcata at our site in Richland, IA. It is expected that the cool spring had a strong impact on slowing the microbial activity required for N fixation. We also expect that planting the corn from north to south would be beneficial so that the falcata is not constantly shaded throughout the year.


Panels: A) Unfertilized corn showing week growth with vigorous falcata. B) Corn growth with falcata in foreground and fertilized, non-cover cropped control in back. C) Falcata remaining after corn removal. Portion to the left is after a full rate of glyphosate, right side is a half rate of glyphosate applied at v6

Perennial Groundcover Project with Iowa State

A team at Iowa State, led by Dr. Kenneth Moore, has been working on Perennial Groundcover projects for many years to transform row crop erosion problems. This kind of industry leading creative thinking is exactly what we are after when we talk about finding plant-based solutions to production challenges. After several years of mixed results with a very aggressive bluegrass cultivar, Jerry pointed out that the variety matters and recommended Milagro because it is more compact, has a short rhizome which leads to lower spread, and has always had good shade tolerance.

The team was delighted by the results using Milagro and we were asked to participate in a 5 year, 10-million-dollar project called, “Perennial Groundcover: A Scalable Systems Approach to Achieving Soil & Water Conservation with High-Yield, Row Crop Production in Iowa.” The general idea is to plant rows of Milagro in real production fields in 5-acre plots and strip till the cash crop into the rows to enhance photosynthetic capture, send more carbon into the soil, and minimize soil erosion.

Ten farmers are enrolled in the project, six participants successfully seeded groundcover in the spring of 2022, with two sites needing re-seeding and two remaining sites scheduled for spring 2023 seeding. Interest in the project is incredible, with 60 farmers attending the recent fall field day in northeastern Iowa. Baseline soils in the spring and fall and whole plant samples of the main crop (corn or soybean) at V8, R1, R6 were taken to measure biomass and nitrogen content. Corteva also imaged the grass at planting, V8, R1, R6 to estimate ground cover and understand weed suppression. Visit https://www.abe.iastate.edu/pgc-team/ to learn more.

Carbon Sequestration – Value added Pasture Potentials

GO Seed is working to quantify the carbon sequestration potential of our cover crop and forage species. The carbon markets seem to be gathering steam with large and innovative companies developing the tools to enable farmers and ranchers to market the carbon credits that they create by adopting new practices like cover crops and no-till. While many companies are focused on the “how to Market” side of this future business, GO Seed is working on how to actually send carbon deeper and have become the leaders in this potential earth changing market.
We are in the middle of a 5-year study in conjunction with the University of Wyoming where we are evaluating our Sainfoin and Falcata Alfalfa varieties for their potential to sequester carbon. We are attempting to build off research conducted on rangeland by Dr. Gerald Schuman, et al, in 2001 in the USA. In their research, they found that by adding Falcata Alfalfa to the dryland range that an additional 1.56 MT/ha/yr. of carbon could be sequestered in the soil after four years. By incorporating livestock they found an additional 0.30 MT/ha/yr. of carbon could be sequestered.
With over 161 million hectares (397 million acres) of rangeland in the USA that has largely been mis-managed over the last century and a half, we feel that this land has a lot of potential for carbon sequestration. The revenue that could be generated by ranchers from the sale of carbon credits can easily cover the cost of the rangeland improvement. Improvements that could lead to improved productivity which would generate further returns.

The carbon markets have the potential to transform agriculture as we know it and we are actively accounting for this potential in the development of new varieties of turf, forage, and cover crops.

After a typical Oregon summer with minimal rain, several people commented on how green the unirrigated field of falcata was on our research farm. We decided to dig a soil pit and see how deep the roots are. So far, we have dug over two meters deep, the roots are still almost a pencil thick and we have not found the bottom yet.

Panels: A) Multiple taproots coming from one crown of GO-FU our experimental variety of falcata, bred to be upright. B) GO-FU growing green in mid-summer. C) Our new plant breeder, Dr. Trent Tate, getting excited by exploring roots in the soil pit. D) Close up of the GO-FU roots at two meters deep.

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