Tips On Establishing Cover Crops

February 24, 2010 at 8:15 am

Cover crops offer many benefits for agriculture that include erosion control; reduced compaction and nutrient leaching; increased water infiltration; improved soil biodiversity; weed control and disease suppression; increased carbon sequestration and maximum nutrient recycling; improved air, soil, and water quality; and wildlife enhancement. Every cover crop species has its own niche and attributes for agricultural production.

So, a common question is ‘what should I use for a cover crop?’ The answer is not straightforward, and can depend on an individuals’ preference. Below are just a few options I have compiled following a wheat crop. For a more robust discussion of options I encourage you to read the OSU Factsheet Sustainable Crop Rotations with Cover Crops.

Following wheat, planned crop soybeans:

Option 1: Cereal rye

  • Drill cereal rye at a rate of 1 bushel/acre
  • Note that cereal rye will not winterkill
  • The cereal rye will get very tall (maybe 2-3’)
  • Drill/plant soybeans into the standing cereal rye. Do not kill the rye prior to planting
  • Chemically kill the rye after the soybeans have emerged.
  • Suppliers: http://www.pondseedco.com/, Burtch Seed, Tama  or Mid Wood Cooperative, Bowling Green
  • Be sure to ask for cereal rye (referred to as winter rye) and not annual rye
  • Plant by 1st week  of August

Option 2: Oats

  • Drill oats at 1.5 bu/acre
  • Oats should winterkill
  • Oats can ‘mat’ down so delay planting until 1st week of September
  • Suppliers: several, any common oats will work

Following wheat, planned crop corn:

Option 1: Cowpeas

  • Drill Cowpeas at 40-50 lb/acre
  • Requires early start, wheat harvest and landleveling need to be done quickly
  • Plant in July- preferably mid-July
  • Cowpeas will winterkill
  • Add additional nitrogen to corn starter (watch salt content)
  • Conduct Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Test (PSNT) on corn to determine how much nitrogen to sidedress
  • Suppliers: http://www.pondseedco.com/, Burtch Seed, Tama  or Mid Wood Cooperative, Bowling Green; Pricing on Austrian Winter peas at the time of this writing are $0.90-$1.15/lb.

Option 2: Oilseed Radish

  • Ideal is to plant on 30” spacing
  • If planting is not an option, broadcast
  • Plant 1-2 lb/acre or broadcast at a low rate of 3-5 lb/acre in August (standard rec is 8-10 lb/acre)
  • Radish will winterkill
  • Plant corn seed 1-2” off the oilseed radish row (if the radish had been planted)
  • Add additional nitrogen to corn starter (watch salt content)
  • Conduct Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Test (PSNT) to determine how much nitrogen to sidedress
  • Suppliers: http://www.pondseedco.com/, Burtch Seed, Tama  or Mid Wood Cooperative, Bowling Green; at time of this article Minowasa Oilseed radishes were $2.14-$2.30/lb.

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This blog is no longer being maintained. Information on this blog may still be relevant, but for the latest agronomic information and farm management information please visit http://corn.osu.edu and http://ohioagmanager.osu.edu, respectively.

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