In early 2020, we conducted a survey on farmers’ experiences and perceptions of planting “green” with cover crops. Our target audience was producers who were already using cover crops. We handed out questionnaires at UNL Extension conferences on cover crops. Conference attendees (farmers, crop consultants, agribusiness employees, etc.) filled in and returned questionnaires during the conference. The conferences were held in Nebraska at Central City, Hickman, Mead, and York; and at one site in Wisconsin. The questionnaire was also posted online.
We received 206 completed surveys. Of those, 18% indicated that they had never grown (or recommended, in the case of crop consultants) cover crops, 38% had grown cover crops for 1-5 years, 30% had grown cover crops for 5-10 years and 14% for more than 10 years.
Surveys that indicated “Never” on the first questions were not included in the rest of the analysis.
Planting Corn Green
The survey then asked questions on planting green practices. Of those farmers who used cover crops and answered this question, 53% (83 respondents) indicated they had planted corn into a green cover crop —in most cases, a grassy cover crop. The cover crop was less than 10 inches tall in 63% of green planting situations. Most farmers (64%) added N at corn planting, between 10 and 200 lb N/ac. The green planting was usually intentional (62%).
The survey continued with questions on farmers’ observations and perceptions of corn after it was planted green. The majority (56%) of growers observed/recorded no yield increase, or increases of 1-5 bu/ac (25%). The majority of growers (59%) also had not observed/recorded yield decreases and 66% did not observe/record delayed corn emergence.
Allelopathic effects of planting corn green were observed by 14% of respondents, but a large number (30%) were unsure about it, and 56% did not observe allelopathy.
An increase in corn pests was observed by 13% of respondents, but 69% saw no change in corn pests.
Soil water in most cases (62%) was positively affected by planting green. Soil fertility was positively affected in 39% of cases, but in 52% of cases there were no effects.
Planting Soybean Green
Of those farmers who used cover crops and answered this question, 54% (77 respondents) had planted soybean into a green cover crop — in most cases, a grassy cover crop. At green planting, the cover crop was greater than 10 inches tall in 51% of situations. The green planting was, in most cases, intentional (82%).
Forty-two percent of growers saw no yield increase, or saw a 1-5 bu/ac increase (42%). Yield decreases were rarely reported (18%). Most respondents (72%) saw no effects on soybean emergence.
Allelopathic effects of planting green on soybean were only observed by 3% of respondents, 80% reported no allelopathy, and 17% were unsure.
Increases in soil pests were observed by 8% of respondents, but 81% saw no changes.
Soil water was reported to be positively influenced by green planting by 63% of respondents, whereas 32% saw no changes. Most respondents (61%) saw no effects on soil fertility, although 36% reported positive effects.
A total of 144 people answered this question, and the majority (81%) identified as farmers/landowners or crop consultants/agronomists (9%).
Of the farmers, 21% owned up to 200 acres, 41% owned between 200 and 1,000 acres, and 31% owned between 1,000 and 4,000 acres.
Of the crop consultants, 33% influenced up to 10,000 acres, 51% influenced between 10,000 and 100,000 acres and 8% influenced between 100,000 and 1,000,000 acres.
New Planting Green Questionnaire
We’re curious about farmers’ experiences in 2020 and are conducting another planting green questionnaire. Have you or a farmer you advise “green” planted corn or soybeans into a standing cover crop before? If so, we would appreciate if you could share your experiences through this brief online survey.