Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, August 01, 1998, Image 32

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    A32-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, August 1, 1998
Lancaster Fanning Staff
HOLTWOOD (Lancaster Co.)
One of the nation’s strongest
no-dll advocates and a staunch
conservation farmer opened the
doors Wednesday to his farm here,
inviting about 240 producers and
agri-industry representatives to the
county’s annual conservation expo
that featured the healthful soil ben
efits of no-till.
Steve Groff, along with father
Elias and family, demonstrated
why no-till is essential to keeping
farming viable and profitable in
the state and the country.
In addition, the Groff family
was honored with the Pennsylvani
a Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Clean Water Farm Award for “pro
tecting water on the farm itself, for
southeastern Pennsylvania, and for
the slate,” said Chris Herr, deputy
agriculture secretary, who pre
sented the award to the Groffs.
The award, according to Herr,
recognizes Pennsylvanians who
“excel in water quality
Steve Groff and father Elias
farm 175 acres of com, alfalfa,
tomatoes, pumpkins, soybeans,
small grains, and a few other veg
etables on hilly land in southern
Lancaster County.
Steve is the third generation to
manage the rolling acres, which
have been contoured for at least 40
(Groffs family were profiled in
numerous issues of Lancaster
Farming through the years for
their innovative no-till vegetable
farming and conservation work.
They were honored in March with
the Lancaster County Conserva
tion District’s Outstanding
Cooperator Award and featured in
the March 21 issue of this
In a statement prepared and dis
tributed at the field day, Groff
noted that he started using no-till in
the early 1980 s on about 15 com
acres. Groff began using cover
crops at Cedar Meadow Farm in
1991 as another soil conservation
“I started using rye for winter
erosion control on fields that
would have been bare,” he indi
cated. “But now I plant cover crops
based on the succeeding crop that I
want to plant into it the next year.”
He has experimented with vari
ous types of cover crops. At the
field day and Lancaster County
Conservation Expo on his farm
Wednesday, he noted how impor
tant it is to keep the soil covered at
all times.
His favorite combination for
transplanting tomatoes is a three
way mix of hairy vetch, crimson
clover, and rye. For pumpkins, he
uses vetch and spring oats. For
soybeans he spins rye on top of
cornstalks, then he rolls the stalks
to shake the rye seeds down into
the soil.
To roll the cover crops, Groff
uses a rolling stalk chopper with
parallel linkages. It flattens and
cnmps cornstalks or other mater
ial. The machine has two rows of
rollers, four in front and four in
back, with eight 23-inch wide
blades per roller. The turning roll
ers crimp up the cover and push it
right down.
On Wednesday Groff demon
strated how quickly the crop can be
rolled down. He chopped through
a large stand of sorghum
sudangrass, rolling one side of the
Groff Receives
At Field Day,
field at about IS miles per hour.
He has used the versatile
machine on 350 acres in two years.
Groff said that the combination
of cover crops and no-tilling does
more than cut erosion. He noted it
“improves soil tilth, increases
organic matter levels, enhances
water infiltration, and reduces pest
Legume covers such as vetch or
crimson clover also add nitrogen to
the fields. Use of manure from the
steer finishing operation and
importing hog and poultry manure
help with nutrient needs.
After the stalk chopper, tomato,
broccoli, and other transplant
material are planted into the vetch
using a no-till subsurface tiller/
transplanter developed by Dr. Ron
Morse, Virginia Tech. The trans
planter has a spring-loaded
20-inch, straight-bladed coulter,
followed by a subsurface tiller that
gently opens a slot to place the
At the field day, Groff demon
strated broccoli transplants using
the equipment. The package leaves
virtually no soil showing after the
crop is planted, giving good full
coverage mulch for mid- to late
season tomatoes.
The no-till system stems early
blight, controls erosion, and helps
in terms of total savings. Total sav
ings using the no-till transplanting
system for tomatoes amounts to
about $550 per acre.
Nearly $5OO of the cost reduc
tion is from material, labor, and
time savings when eliminating the
use of plastic mulch.
Groff also has had success in no
tilling pumpkins, sweet com, and
peppers, as well as fall broccoli.
Groff has also transplanted pump
kins this way. It has worked with
eggplant, melons, and even snap
All 175 acres are in no-till.
According to Groff, herbicides
have been reduced to near
'A normal rates.
During the day. demonstrations
were given on soil quality by Dr.
Ray Weil and Joel Gruver, soil
quality researchers from the Uni
versity of Maryland.
Dr. Joel Myers, state agronomist
with NRCS, spoke about the use of
no-till in farming systems.
‘The primary no-till crop is no
till soybeans,” he said. “There are
21 million acres of no-lill soybeans
in the U.S.”
Myers noted that 35 percent of
soybeans in Pennsylvania are
planted no-lill.
No-till can be used in conjunc
tion with cover crop to protect the
‘To protect the soil, keep it cov
ered,” he said. “That’s the first line
in getting it protected. Keep the
soil covered year- round.”
At the field day, equipment
demonstrations included zone and
slit tillage, a no-till drill, a deep till
er and fertilizer injector, com
planter, and subsoiler.
Also, other farms were honored
along with Groffs with the Pen
nsylvania Association of Conser
vation Districts (PACD) Clean
Water Award Wednesday. They
• Lee and Sharon Durandetta,
Knox Township, Clearfield
• Gerald and Linda Smith, Mar
tinsburg, Blair County.
Both farms were honored at a
PACD meeting in Monroeville.
Clean Water
The Groff family was honored with the Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Clean Water Farm Award by Chris Herr, deputy agriculture secretary, far left, who pre
sented the award to the Groffs Wednesday. The award, according to Herr, recognizes
Pennsylvanians who excel In water quality protection. Next to Herr, from left, are Cheri
and Steve Groff, with Steve holding son David, 22 months, and Marian and Ellas,
Steve’s parents. In front are Steve and Cheri Groff’s children, Lauren, 4 and Dana, 6.
Photo by Andy Andrews
At the field day, Groff, standing with his hand on equipment, demonstrated his no*
till transplanter, placing In broccoli. The package leaves virtually no soil showing after
the crop Is planted, giving good full-coverage mulch.
On Wednesday Groff demonstrated how quickly the crop can be rolled down. He
chopped through a large stand of sorghum-sudangrass, rolling one side of the field at
15 miles per hour. He has used the versatile machine on 350 acres In two years.