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Focusing on seeding helps make cover crops work.

Tom J. Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

January 24, 2023

2 Min Read
Steve and Adam Schwering stand next to rolling harrow
TOOL OF CHOICE: Steve Schwering (left) and his sons Adam (right) and Curtis pull this rolling harrow across fields while seeding cover crops with the on-board air seeder. Tom J. Bechman

Most of the land the Schwerings farm near Rushville, Ind., isn’t as prone to soil erosion as many fields in their area. Nevertheless, they’re committed to conserving as much soil as possible. Plus, they’ve found another key benefit that makes including cover crops on about half their acreage each year extremely valuable.

“Our cropping system is mostly no-till, except where we need tillage because we have hog manure,” Adam Schwering explains. He farms with his dad, Steve, and brother Curtis. “Our goal is to establish a rye cover crop on fields going to soybeans the next year.”

While the cover crop protects the soil and typically keeps winter annual weeds in check, it does more, too. “It’s great at helping keep marestail in check,” Adam says. “And if we get an early start in the spring, we also see help on waterhemp.”

Bill Johnson, Purdue Extension weed control specialist, says one reason cover crops are effective against marestail is because of the weed’s life cycle. It emerges in the fall, and if there is strong competition from a cover crop, it’s less likely to get established and become a problem next spring.

How they do it

In most cases, the Schwerings wait until after harvest, and then run an Unverferth rolling basket implement across the field. An air seeder mounted on the frame of the tool seeds rye at the same time. In effect, they blow seed into the ground in front of the rollers.

“The goal is to disturb residue and get the seed on the surface,” Steve explains. “We’re not interested in doing tillage with this pass.”

The other secret to keeping weeds in check, Adam notes, is going with all Enlist soybeans. That gives them the option of using Enlist herbicide as a burndown with a residual and coming back with Enlist and a residual postemergence.

“Enlist herbicide seems to do a really good job on marestail for us,” Adam says. “This system seems to be working.”

The combination of rye cover crop plus two passes of herbicides in the spring, with residual herbicides included in the mix, are paying off, they note.

“The first time we used a cover crop ahead of soybeans, we noticed excellent results with controlling marestail,” Adam says. “We feel that it’s really working to help suppress marestail.”

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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