Cover crops have become more than just a practice to receive a payment. Grazing, haying or ensiling has become very popular. To make it work well, planning is necessary.

Whether forage is wanted this spring or fall or even next spring, decisions now may affect what is grown. If fall grazing is needed this year from oats to turnips, radishes to ryegrass, what is planted and timing of planting matters. Traditional corn and soybeans will not typically fit a system that needs fall forage. Once seeded, our forages need about six weeks of growth before grazing. A typical corn/soybean rotation does not provide enough growing days after harvest. Why are we talking about this now?

Herbicide carryover is another reason. What herbicides are applied on the primary crop may affect the growth of the forages planted later in the summer. The long residual of some chemicals can prevent or damage growth. Some herbicides have very long restrictions for replant or rotation. Make sure the chemicals selected work well with a secondary crop or forage.

One way to ensure good growth on forages for fall in a traditional row crop system is to airseed, plant while the corn or soybeans will allow machinery through the field, or use a shorter season crop. While this may reduce yield, the benefit comes from having forage. Just be sure that the yield reduction does not push the operation into the red.