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Split-row cover crop system good for corn

Craig Williams cover crops planted in strips
FALL PROTECTION: These cover crops planted in strips still provide a good measure of protection from erosion in the fall and winter.
Planting green into cover crop strips gets corn in the ground earlier.

Craig Williams knows the value of cover crops and uses them whenever possible. He and his wife, Kim, farm near Oaktown in Knox County, Ind., and operate Pro-Ag Service, a Pioneer seed dealership.

However, when using cover crops ahead of corn and desiring to plant corn early, Williams found that he wasn’t always getting the uniform corn stands he was after. So, he decided to try an idea he had heard about elsewhere. It allowed him to still use cover crops, but also plant corn into a warmer seedbed in the spring.

“Some people call it ‘planting into green strip till,’” he says. “It’s really made a difference for us, and we’re quite happy with the stand we are getting now.”

After soybean harvest in the fall, in fields going to corn, Williams plants cover crops with his 15-inch, split-row planter. It’s a vacuum planter, and they obtained a special disc for planting cover crops with it.

“We put cereal rye and crimson clover in the front boxes, and radishes in the back 12,” he explains. “That gives us strips to minimize soil erosion in the fall. The radishes die out over winter.”

Good seedbed

“When we come in to plant corn in the spring, we place the corn rows near where the radishes were,” Williams says. “That soil warms up quicker and really works well since we want to plant corn as early as possible.”

Craig Williamscover crops planted in strips

Corn gets up and going more quickly planted into strips where radishes were planted the fall before and winter-killed. The cereal rye and clover aren’t terminated until corn is planted.

To maximize the value of cereal rye and especially crimson clover in the spring, Williams doesn’t terminate it until after planting corn. “The cereal rye and clover get more time to grow, and the clover helps fix nitrogen, which can be used by the corn later on,” he relates.

When he does terminate the cover strips after planting corn, he uses glyphosate plus residual corn herbicides plus a very small amount of 2-4-D to finish off the clover.

“We really like what we’ve seen so far,” Williams says.

Using GPS to set A-B lines in the fall while seeding cover crops and using the same A-B lines in the spring helps place the rows precisely where they belong, he notes. That ensures he can place corn where the soil is warmest, and usually driest if it’s a wet spring.

He also uses cover crops ahead of soybeans. Typically, he has the custom fertilizer applicator mix a blend of cereal rye and oats into the dry fertilizer in the fall and broadcast it on top. No-tilling soybeans into cereal rye in the spring also works well, he adds.

TAGS: Cover Crops
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