Pictured Above: Wallace, Neb., no-tiller Conrad Nelson says he’s been seeding a 12-way summer mix of cover crops after wheat harvest with the goal of reducing compaction, and improving water infiltration, nitrogen fixation and organic matter content. The mix includes sorghum-sudangrass, oats, rape, radish, turnip, flax, camelina, peas, soybean, lentil, clover and sorghum.]
Back in February, No-Till Farmer surveyed its readers on how they’re using cover-crop mixes to perform a variety of functions on their farms, whether it’s yield enhancement, weed suppression, erosion mitigation, building soil tilth or other benefits.
More than 100 growers responded and we printed some of the best responses in the May 2016 edition of Conservation Tillage Guide. But we didn’t have room to print them all.
So below you’ll find tips and information from another 21 no-tillers who are making cover-crop mixes work on their farm operations.
‘A Huge Shock’
In 2014 I used a mix of radish and oats after my sweet corn, mainly to keep cover on the ground to reduce wind erosion. It drives me nuts seeing brown snow in the ditches after a snowstorm.
They did the job of keeping the soil in place. The added benefit was some of the best planting conditions we’ve had last year. The ground was much more mellow than any of our other ground.
We did make a pass with our Krause Excelerator tool to incorporate our 28% and chemicals. Then we planted. The corn looked beautiful all year.
We did sidedress an additional 30 units of N. We also did check strips of no additional N. The additional N was only 3 bushels per acre better. That was a huge shock. Those acres that were covered were our highest yielding by far — on average 15-20 bushels per acre better. That sealed the deal for me.
This past year I planted a mix of radishes, oats and cereal rye on our sweet corn ground. It was harvested earlier than last year, allowing for more growth than last year. Radishes grew to about a foot above ground and the size of a forearm. Oats were knee high and had great growth on the cereal rye.
Where we’re planting soybeans this year, we’re going to no-till into the covers and then terminate them. We do have 45 acres going to corn where covers will be terminated early, plus worked by the vertical-tillage tool to incorporate N, plus a sidedress application of N.
— Carl Zimmerman, Earlville, Ill.
No-till is not a common practice here, so we’re still learning by trial and error to see what works for our conditions.
After suffering from severe compaction, we decided to deep till our fields this year. Our goal is to plant a three-way winter cover crop of either oats/rye/triticale, plus either field peas/vetch and radish, to build organic matter and cover to see if this will prevent compaction in the future. As an early adopter of no-till we didn’t know back then what we know now about managing your soil cover.
We’re in a summer rainfall region with very cold winters and little or no rainfall or snow in winter. Cover crops have to be planted with residual summer moisture. Cover crops have to be frost resistant and survive with little moisture, so options are limited. Mixes also depend largely on seed availability.
— Ruhan Theunissen, South Africa
Building Up Biomass
We planted several different mixes last year. One mix was spring oats (2 bushels an acre), radish (4 pounds) and sunnhemp (15 pounds), which was drilled into wheat stubble Aug. 25, 2014.
My goal was to test my theory that oats, radish and sunnhemp would provide enough biomass to make a suitable mulch for no-till corn in 2016 that would not require a burndown herbicide. All those species will winterkill.
Another mix was Austrian winter peas (25 pounds), radish (3 pounds) and sunnhemp (15 pounds) drilled into wheat stubble Aug. 14, 2014. I’ve planted this mix before, with nice results for no-till corn as the next crop. This has two legumes — one warm season, one cool season — plus the soil loosening by the radish. I’m trying to use the long fallow season to capture as much N as possible.
Another mix was wheat (2.5 bushels) and Austrian winter peas (20 pounds) drilled into soybean stubble on Oct. 17, 2015. This is planted in a rotation with other fields close to the main farm (formerly dairy) with the intention of harvesting as silage hay prior to no-till corn. These fields are high in phosphorus (P) due to the decades of dairy manure application, and this double-crop nutrient removal is helping reduce excessive P levels.
I soil test every year so I can keep up on soil conditions, and I’m adding compost to replace organic matter and potash when needed. I’ve also done a test plot within this field by replacing the peas with Balansa clover. It’s advertised to have much more biomass than the peas in the same season, while still being very winter hardy and fixing N. The cost per acre for the seed is much less as well.
— Lyle Tabb IV, Kearneysville, W.V.
Filling the Gaps
Following no-till spring wheat that was interplanted into red clover and harvested for grain, we had drainage tiling work done. We did very limited tillage work directly over the tile lines and whole-field no-till planted a seven-way mix of canola, lentils, forage radish, turnips, sudangrass, and flax.
The primary goal was to get biological activity going in the heavily disturbed soils. Secondary goals were weed suppression, forage for cattle, drainage and snow catch. Due to the excellent growing conditions and extremely late frost we had fantastic growth, a lot of forage for cattle, and excellent snow catch.
The interplanted red clover dominated the mix, but because of a variable stand of red clover from interplanting, the cover-crop mix filled in all the gaps and ensured 100% coverage.
I’m looking to try vetch and cereal rye instead of just cereal rye following silage corn and soybeans like I’ve been doing for a couple of years. Following spring wheat I will again use a multi-species mix, but will likely eliminate sudangrass and flax and instead add sunflowers and perhaps a bean or pea.
— Paul Ortman, Marion, S.D.
Doing What Works
In the fall of 2015 our cover acres were down mainly due to wet weather, and our wheat acreage was up. The acres we did seed were behind corn. We seeded radish, peas, barley, clover, buckwheat and sunnhemp on several fields.
Several other farms just had wheat and clover on them. This fall we hope to use rye, clover buckwheat, radish, peas and barley.
Our main reason for not using more cereal rye is that we don’t want to get our seed wheat and seed barley contaminated, although I think rye is a better cover than wheat and barley.
— Brian Moore, Mount Ulla, N.C.
One of Each
After wheat, I seeded an eight-way mix with sunnhemp, buckwheat, sunflowers, cahaba vetch, radishes, rape, turnips and millet. I wanted to grow organic matter and nitrogen and improve soil health.
After corn and soybeans I used annual ryegrass, crimson clover, rape and oats. This was to fix or sequester nitrogen (N), feed soil microbes, stop erosion, loosen the soil and mulch for next year. I feel like I get all of these benefits. This year I will experiment with different cocktail mixes after wheat but stick with the same mix after corn and soybeans.
In choosing mixes I look at what I want to do and what works best, and when I will be seeding it. Also, I look at how the different species work together. At the minimum I want a grass, a legume and a brassica.
— Roger Wenning, Greensburg, Ind.
Greensburg, Ind., no-tiller Roger Wenning shows a field with aerial-seeded annual ryegrass, crimson clover and rape right after corn harvest last fall.
Moving Forward Carefully
We farm in western Kentucky near Paducah area. Two years ago, due to the collapse of the wheat market, we started planting straight cereal rye on our sloping ground that didn’t have a wheat crop on them.
Our only goal was erosion control and it worked very well in that role. We also had far less Palmer amaranth pressure than many of our neighbors.
Last fall we mostly planted cereal rye and tillage radishes behind our corn and switched to straight rye as we moved into October. Cereal rye was for erosion control and radish for bio tillage. We used a low rate of radish — the ratio was 50 pounds per ton of rye, and the seeding rate came out to 42 pounds per acre. We even planted some cereal rye behind double crop soybeans with excellent results due to the very mild December.
On a few fields we’ve set up trials and planted a multi cover-crop blend. On one I planted cereal rye, radish, rape, Berseem clover and Lynx winter pea on Sept. 19. I chose Lynx pea due to cold tolerance, the Berseem clover was a mistake by my supplier (I ordered crimson) and planted it before I realized it.
I chose both radish and rape to have two types of taproots and one to overwinter, as well as for cost reasons. Rape was $1 per pound and a very low rate was required. As of February this year, it appeared all but the radish and Berseem clover overwintered, but Berseem doesn't seem to fit in our production systems.
The cereal rye has held very well for erosion in all fields and the radish had pushed very deep. In the above five-way mix, the radish grew a lot with the mild winter and they followed corn behind spring-killed alfalfa. It looked like they could reach the deeper alfalfa roots for an N source.
In an additional field that was seeded Oct. 6, 2015, I planted cereal rye, purple-top turnip and a forage-type radish. I wanted to see how the turnip overwintered vs. the radish. Planting was later than ideal for either but it was 70 F when I planted that field. I also chose turnips with cereal rye as an anti-Palmer amaranth mix. Some turnips made it to early February if they were protected by larger rye.
I plan to do more cover mixes, but planting dates don't warrant it. As a mid-South grower we easily can plant double-crop soybeans behind wheat, and the cereal rye we keep for seed, so many of the cover blends behind wheat don't work for us. I intend to keep experimenting, as I’m very new to this process.
We select cover-crop mixes primarily on goal. Last season we mostly had a two-plant mix and a experiments with five-ways. The best research I’ve seen says there’s a rapid increase in benefits with three types of plants, not just the species difference but having different plant types — a brassica, cereal and legume. So if we can find fits we may add plants.
Our primary concern is erosion control, so we’ve gravitated to cereal rye due to its flexibility, and we can raise it ourselves. My father and uncles even bought an old seed cleaner to clean their seed, as it’s hard to get it cleaned in this area.
I may try some annual ryegrass for fragipan breakup based on some interesting work from Dixon Springs, Ill., and Lloyd Murdock at the University of Kentucky’s Princeton experiment station. We used radish with the intention of bio tillage and adding a different type of plant, a brassica.
I’m trying some legumes to try to increase biomass in some fields and provide enough N to help offset some to the tie-up issues from residue. Our cropping patterns and planting windows don't leave a lot of room to have much legume N fixation, anyway, so that isn't a priority.
— Derek Martin, Paducah, Ky.
Various Application Methods
We like to use a mix of annual ryegrass and rape in soybeans, sown with a rebuilt Gandy seeder on an Apache sprayer. We strip-tilled dry fertilizer after harvest with a three-tank variable-rate program, including micronutrients, for the 2017 corn crop.
Cereal rye was seeded with an air drill after corn harvest for 2017 soybeans. In 30 acres of corn and soybean fields we didn’t get replanted. We air drilled cowpeas, sunnhemp, Cahaba vetch, yellow sweet clover, crimson clover, oats, sorghum-sudangrass, pearl millet, radish, rapeseed, turnips, buckwheat, sunflower, flax and added leftover soybean seed.
We were concerned about herbicide carryover but got a great stand in the replanted soybeans and a good stand in the corn. We believe the excess rain removed the herbicide carryover. The known benefits are water infiltration and weed suppression.
We’ll continue to seed annual ryegrass and rapeseed in soybeans and cereal rye after corn. We will test interseeding annual ryegrass and crimson clover on 100 acres of corn this year. We plan to sow covers into standing corn with our Gandy and immediately follow with sidedressed anhydrous ammonia to stir some dirt around the seed.
Potential herbicide carryover, growing season remaining and seeding methods are among the factors when choosing cover mixes. We didn’t think we were getting enough benefits from turnips or crimson Clover.
— John Busby, Frankton, Ind.
Adding Protein, Minerals
Last year we used cereal rye and either turnip, crimson clover, rape or hairy vetch for grazing in corn stover. While we noted no major differences in grazing performance, we did note differences in earthworm populations, with cereal rye alone being the lowest and changes in organic matter content, with cereal rye plus rape yielding the greatest increase over 3 years.
I used spring oats and radishes on a field where I intend to frost seed spring canola. My objective is to see if the dead cover crop facilitates the establishment of broadcast spring canola when compared to bare soil. I used a lot of turnip with winter oats, triticale and some cereal rye in another field for weed suppression.
I like turnip in the mix, along with cereal rye and winter oats, and crimson clover for N. This mix is good for grazing and provides a good mix of tap-rooted and fibrous rooted plants to recycle nutrients from lower soil regions and form a mat to reduce soil erosion. The decaying turnips can feed the cereals as they break dormancy in the spring.
In choosing a mix, seed cost, time of planting and growth habits of the cover-crop species all factor in. For grazing in corn stover I want a large volume of green material that has a legume component to add N (protein) to the forage.
I think that turnips in the mix (or swedes, sugarbeets, etc.) add minerals to the feed and may reduce the need to add supplemental minerals. For earlier grazing I like oats and turnips, as they get up fast and the oats are ready to graze before cereal rye is ready. That means we can get fall grazing on the oat mix and save the rye for late fall and early winter grazing, with it going into the spring.
In our area, the oats and cereal rye are likely to regrow, so they can be grazed again. I like the idea of resting permanent pastures over winter, as I think it allows the pasture grasses to recover and build root structure and root reserves that might carry the pasture into the summer in better condition.
— Todd Higgins, Lincoln University Jefferson City, Mo.
Working With Organic
On my farm I have two trials of cereal rye — one seeded at 100 pounds and another at 150 pounds. The light rate will be worked and farmed organically while the heavy rate will be roller crimped and I'm going to experiment with no-till organic soybeans.
On my dad's farm we seeded a mix of cereal rye, annual rye and radishes. I think we’ll see some organic matter increases, as well as an increase in soil tilth, and I feel like the cereal rye will also help in weed control.
This year, I plan to have a few trials out on my fields and my Dad's. We’re seeding our legume/grass mixes over our wheat. Mine will be red clover, alfalfa, and orchardgrass and Dad's consist of legumes for deep roots and N fixation, as well as grasses for building soil structure with fine, fibrous root systems. As organic producers, all our N needs come from a lush stand of legumes.
I'm going to interseed crimson clover and orchardgrass into oats in late April, then no-till drill buckwheat into the cover crop stand after the oats are harvested.
This summer we plan to seed a cover-crop mix in V7 corn. We’re going to mount a 12-volt seeder on the front of the tractor during our last cultivation and work the mix into the soil as we complete our lay-by cultivation. This will include a mix of turnips, wheat, oats, and kale, and possibly spinach. It's intended to be a lush pasture after corn harvest.
When I decide what species to use in a mix, I first decide what I want to accomplish. If I'm trying to fix N and build soil tilth, I use legumes and grasses. If I want to bust compaction, I use deep-rooted species. For forage, grasses and broadleaves with some legumes is ideal.
I also look in the shed and see what I already have and don't have to purchase. If I don't have what I'm looking for, then I'll look in a seed catalog. I try to keep mixes between 3-5 species, but I'm excited to try a 15-way mix someday.
— Will Glazik, Chenoa, Ill.
Cold Weather Success
Even with the shorter growing season here in northern Wisconsin, we have opportunities to utilize cover crops. Many area farmers grow early-harvest crops like winter wheat or corn silage that fit very well with covers.
In 2015 there was a fair amount of prevented-planting acres in one of the counties that I farm. I seeded 8 pounds crimson clover and 2 pounds medium red clover on July 4 and July 10. The neighbors sure were talking, trying to figure out what I was growing that time of year. My thought was I could grow a good portion of the N needed for winter wheat that was to be planted Sept. 20.
The planting date made a real difference in the amount of residue. The July 4 planting was over knee high, whereas the July 10 seeding was 8-10 inches.
If I get a chance to repeat this cover seeding, I might leave out medium red clover, as it’s harder to terminate. Following wheat harvest, I intend to seed covers in a mix. One of the mixes that is working well for area farmers is the canola, oats, and turnip.
— Christopher Heckel, Marshfield, WI
Tuning Up Soils
The mixes we use on our farm include annual ryegrass, crimson clover, red clover, cereal rye and wheat. Each field has one or more of these species, specific to the goals we’re looking to achieve.
We always do what we can to be good stewards of the land, so that we can continue to yield efficient harvests for generations to come. Regular maintenance on farm machinery is a general practice, and we’re essentially doing the same for our soils.
We’ll use a lot of the same species this year, but are constantly trying to add new ones. This year we’re adding buckwheat to a rotation before soybeans to help with compaction, P availability and weed pressure.
When selecting a species, we start with seeding date and growing conditions, considering each cover crops' germination temperature, seeding depth, shade tolerance, dormancy behavior, etc.
Then we consider the crop rotation for the cash crop. For example, would we like some N fixation for the following crop, or decreased nematode pressure for soybeans? The more species the better, in most cases.
Cost of seed is also a factor of course, but it's the last thing we review and make changes. Productive results of cover crops depends quite a bit on seeding rates. So to keep our overall costs low we seed most of the cover crops with our existing modified equipment.
— Trent Sanderson, Clare, Ill.
Keeping it Simple
I’ve narrowed my decisions on cover crops to using a mix of 78% annual ryegrass and 12% rape. It gives me two species and they are very synergistic with each other in a lot of ways, including seed sizes. I’m sowing them end of August in both corn and beans.
We went back to 30-inch soybeans to accommodate a Hagie to go through with fenders for basically no damage to soybeans except for ends. It also makes my cover-crop seed purchases simple and relatively inexpensive.
My goal is to get covers growing early to get good height going into winter. Some benefits are obvious like tilth of soil, compaction, erosion control and even yield improvements. Benefits less obvious are building of organic matter, nutrient scavenging, and moisture retention in dry years.
When choosing mixes I like to keep it simple and use something that will grow easily laying on top of ground. If I get into jam and can't plant early, I will use cereal rye. If I planted wheat I would probably try a 10-way mix. In my area I can't justify the expense of a 10-way mix planted after the first crop is harvested and probably not getting a stand going into winter.
— Steve Longfellow, Ohio
Working the System
For the most part I’m in a corn/soybean and some land is in permanent hay. I use cereal rye, crimson clover and rape seed, seeded into standing soybeans at leaf drop. This ground goes to corn, so I like a legume in the mix.
Corn ground going to soybeans gets annual ryegrass and rapeseed flown on at leaf yellowing.
If I keep some cereal rye for seed, I put in clover, rye, sunflowers, peas, vetch, maybe soybeans, and radishes. Legumes should be used ahead of corn if growing time allows.
Covers give soil structure, prevent erosion, help with water infiltration, lower input costs and increase production and, most important, feed earthworms. No-till, cover crops and worms work together for the good of a no-till system. Covers also limit crop nutrient loss.
— Keith Miller, New Paris, Ind.
Root of the Matter
I use a 10-way mix on my ground. I plan to do the same in 2016. My rationale for my mix is this: I want to increase infiltration so I have many covers with fine roots. I put in several legume species to help feed my cover crops and anything that I might interseed into my corn crop.
I have species that will both overwinter and winterkill. I want those that overwinter to pick up the nutrients from my brassicas. I also chose species for diversity of roots. I need dense, shallow roots to continue to build my organic matter in the soil, and brassicas and deeper-rooted covers to connect my surface hydrology with my subsoil hydrology and sequester nutrients,
If I need a simple mix, I'll use a brassica like rape or kale with cereal rye and Austrian winter peas, or crimson clover.
— Don McClure, Findlay, Ohio
Primarily we used rye and radishes, though we’ve put some triticale and barley out. These were a combination goal of building soil, weed suppression, nutrient scavenging, erosion control, compaction alleviation, and grazing.
The triticale and barley could also be hayed or chopped. Oftentimes, we’ll throw turnips into our cover/grazing mixes. We’ll largely use the same covers this year, although I’m trying to figure a good way to incorporate legumes somehow.
In choosing mixes we look for things that will benefit us in the short-term (weed suppression, nutrient scavenging, grazing/forage), as well as the long term (weed suppression, organic matter/soil structure). As we aren’t the most experienced cover croppers, we try and keep the number of species low and simple. I’m excited to start trying new things, though.
— Jake Bevan, Wichita, Kan.
Timing is Key
Last year I seeded cereal rye, tillage radishes, winter wheat, red clover and ladino clover. One goal was to alleviate compaction and build the soil. I also wanted to sequester nutrients, and some of the fields were for forage for cattle.
I was able to receive forage for my cattle herd and reduce erosion from winter rains. I plan to use the same mixes this year, but may put some annual ryegrass and winter rapeseed in.
My choices on what cover-crop mixes to use depends mainly on when I get to seed my cover crops. I’ve had the best results drilling them after harvest. How soon in the fall I harvest determines what I will seed. If harvest is too late I will use mainly cereal rye. But on some of my winter wheat ground I will frost-seed ladino and red clovers.
— David Wessel, Chandlerville, Ill.
Keeping Water, Nutrients
After wheat we seeded a mix of oats, annual ryegrass, radish, rapeseed and crimson clover. We wanted to scavenge nutrients, sequester water from leaving tile lines, mellow the soil and have nutrients to be released later in growing season for the next corn crop.
We also flew on a mix of crimson clover, rapeseed, radish and cereal rye to scavenge nutrients, keep the ground covered and release nutrients for following crop. We kept water and nutrients in the wheat-stubble field as documented by tile water flow and nutrient testing.
We plan on using similar covers this year again. We may try other N- producing species but need to be wary of vine-like covers that might wrap around the planter row units.
— Dale Daniels, Wakeman, Ohio
The Best Method
None of the mixes we planned to seed in 2015 got applied because the wet growing season and crop response, which meant trying to seed covers would cause more damage to the cash crop than any expected return.
Our plan is always to seed covers on as many acres as we can. Unfortunately, at this latitude in a corn/soybean rotation our plans don’t always work.
We had enough cover crop seed purchased or grown to do all our acres, but the weather as usual here decides if it is worth putting it out. At the first sign of leaf turn in soybeans we planned to broadcast 45 pounds an acre of farm-raised oats, 1 pound of tillage radish and 2 pounds of hairy vetch.
The continuous rain last season caused the soybeans to grow chest high and develop white mold. What looked like a record crop in late July became a jungle you couldn’t walk through. Soybeans were harvested in October when it had turned extremely dry, so cover-crop germination didn’t seem likely — and the time to killing frost appeared short.
We got winter rye seeded after corn harvest until the ground froze. Some of the early rye germinated quite well. Unless you plan to combine winter rye for seed it doesn’t really matter if it germinates in the fall or spring.
If we’re still using a spinner spreader to broadcast over-the-top of standing soybeans, the oats/radish/hairy vetch mix, with some turnips for the wildlife in those areas, works if it's not too windy.
We’re going to research our corn-topping concept this year and just applied for a Minnesota Corn Growers Assn. grant to have a field day to demonstrate the concept and other innovative ideas we’re working on. We’re supposed to know soon if the field demonstrations we plan for mid- September get funded.
The machine we want to build will require considerable dollars and work on our part, but if we can get it done, than any mixture — regardless of the different seed densities — should be evenly seeded between the rows. This would let us add any cover-crop species to the mix for both corn and soybean seeding.
When we started seeding covers we used species we knew, such as red clover, grasses and rape, which were often planted for livestock pastures. Then when we no longer had livestock, so we tried different species like winter rye, tillage radishes, turnips, winter peas, hairy vetch, rye grass and others. Each one has their advantages and drawbacks.
Now, our primary goal is to grow soil. We're looking to balance the carbon-nitrogen (N) ratio from 50:1 down to 25:1. At these levels, with adequate moisture and temperatures, the process can complete and form significant humus.
— Rod and Rick Sommerfield, Mazeppa, Minn.
Last year we used a variety of mixes, which included ryegrass, cereal rye, oats, hairy vetch, tillage radish, rape, crimson clover and turnips.
Our primary goal is to increase organic matter and improve water-holding capacity. We furrow irrigate here in southeast Missouri, so eliminating irrigation is our No .1 goal. We also raise several acres of continuous cotton and we rely on cover crops to serve as a weed barrier to eliminate the need for pre-emergence herbicides, and to fight nematodes.
We plan on using the same mixes in 2016. Rye grass is probably the most single beneficial one thing we use, so we try to incorporate it in every mix. A lot of the mixes depend on the crop that we are rotating to the following year.
I think choosing a cover-crop mix depends on your individual goals, and most of all, your geographic location. Using a variety of mixes allows a producer to address a multitude of problems and those vary in different regions across the country. Growers just beginning to work with cover crops should probably start with a one- or two-way mix until they get comfortable with what they’re doing.
— Keith Mayberry, Essex, Mo.
Going Old School
On acres planted to wheat I’ve been using medium red clover frost seeded in the spring. I harvest wheat and the clover is growing all summer, adding tons of organic matter while helping to decompose wheat stubble. I will apply manure to these fields also, and then next year plant corn. For 6 years this has been giving me vary nice corn yields.
On soybeans I use mostly cereal rye planted after harvest. I’ve tried flying on covers and using highboy methods in standing crops with varying degrees of success. Due to a mid-October to early November seeding date, cereal rye is about my only choice. These fields will also go to corn in the spring.
I usually don't put a cover on corn stalks. My thinking is that I start planting soybeans first in the spring. In April, cover crops just haven’t had enough time to grow in the spring yet. This allows me a little more time before I kill the cereal rye and plant corn. This also gives the ground a little more time to warm up (around May 5-10) and the corn pops right out and keeps right on growing.
I plant both crops with one planter. It’s big enough to allow me to plant all my acres in eight working days, as I’m a one-man operation planting 1,000 spring-planted crops.
I have ideas to get early interseeded cover crops into standing corn at N sidedressing time. I’m just trying to get weed control with chemicals that still allow the cover crop to grow — plus still not detract from corn yield.
These methods might seem like old school, but it seems to be the most cost effective and efficient way with the equipment I have to make the economics work in my cropping system.
— Gene Witte, Decatur, Ind.
We’ve moved away from cover crop 'cocktails.' With lower grain prices and inconsistent results we decided to stick with what we’re familiar with and cut out some species that are inconsistent and expensive.
We currently seed 17 pounds of annual ryegrass with a pound of canola into standing soybeans with the upcoming crop being corn. We broadcast 60 pounds of cereal rye into corn stalks following harvest.
Our goal is nutrient capture, weed suppression, keeping the soil cool in the summer by letting the rye act as mulch, preventing erosion, improving soil biology, improving tilth, increasing water infiltration, and suppressing nematodes.
I understand the benefits of big mixes and can see why it is such a popular topic in the ag media today. But I think more people will be interested in how to consistently establish covers for as cheap as possible. People who can get their cost-per-acre as low as possible, while having consistent results, is an important topic right now.
Based upon personal interactions with my peers at roundtables and Extension meetings, people want to know how to do it cheap and $60-per-acre cocktails are impractical to most farmers.
— Adam McCain, Bargersville, Ind.