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Soybeans ‘a good place to start’ with cover crops

Soybeans reported to be the "easiest" crop to plant behind cover crops.

Forrest Laws

October 23, 2019

If you’re thinking about planting cover crops in the rapidly closing window for accomplishing that this fall, consider trying them in fields where you plan to plant soybeans in 2020, says Arkansas State University’s Steven Green.

Green, professor of soil and water conservation at ASU, says researchers and growers are finding soybeans to be the easiest crop to plant behind cover crops of all the row crops that can be planted in the Delta region.

Speaking at the Mississippi County, Ark., Rice Irrigation Field Day, which was held at the Sullivan family’s Florenden Farms near Blytheville, Ark., Green said farmers who are trying cover crops are “are really interested in two primary areas — weed suppression and water management.

“We can see in this field we’ve got some really good weed suppression, and we’re finding in this and in other studies around the state that planting cover crops can sometimes lead to a doubling of the water infiltration rate within two years.”

In one study on a silt loam soil at Florenden Farms, researchers found they could wait eight days on another irrigation where cover crops were not grown compared to 12 days where the soybeans followed a cover crop.

“We haven’t irrigated these beans at all this summer,” said Ryan Sullivan, who operates Florenden Farms with his father, Mike Sullivan. “This field has stayed so wet we haven’t been able to do anything in it. That’s true of a lot of our soybean fields.” (The field day was held in mid-August.)

“This is one of those years where irrigation studies are difficult to do because there is so much water out there,” said Green. “The other thing is we’re finding just about everywhere that soybean is an easy crop to do cover crops on.

“If you’re interested in cover crops or want to get started in cover crops, soybean is a good place to start. Going in, planting a cover crop; coming in, and planting a soybean crop — we’re finding whether you terminate your cover crop early or you terminate late, you’re going to get a good stand, and you’re going to get good yields.”

Green said farmers have seen situations “in which we got diminished stands because of a late termination of the cover crop, and that field actually out-yields a field that has a better stand because soybean compensates so well. It’s also because we get better water infiltration and weed suppression in the fields planted to a cover crop.”

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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