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Tips to terminate winter cover crops 0Tips to terminate winter cover crops

K-State has tips for farmers needing to terminate their winter cover crops before spring planting.

Jennifer M. Latzke

March 8, 2022

2 Min Read
roller-crimper in use on cereal grains.
MECHANICAL TERMINATION: Farmers with limited access to herbicides this spring may choose mechanical termination for their winter cover crops. Here is a roller-crimper in use on cereal grains.Courtesy of Tracy Robillard, NRCS

If you’re one of the many farmers who planted winter cover crops this year to help your summer crops, it’s time to terminate them, according to Kansas State University specialists.

In the Feb. 17 Agronomy eUpdate, K-State weed and soil specialists remind farmers that some cover crop species, like oilseed radish or fall-planted oats, were likely killed by winter freezes. But other covers will need to be terminated by chemical or mechanical methods in the spring. And the Natural Resources Conservation Service has guidelines for that termination timing in order for farmers to stay in program compliance.

Mechanical methods

Considering the limited availability for many chemical herbicides this spring, farmers may be more likely to choose mechanical termination to save herbicide use for in-crop applications on their corn and soybeans, say Peter Tomlinson, environmental quality specialist, and DeAnn Presley, soil management specialist. Some mechanical methods include:

Roller or roller-crimper. This is effective for monoculture plantings of winter cereal grains like cereal rye. For a successful kill, use a roller-crimper at milk or dough stage on winter cereals. For legumes, use at full bloom stage.

Tillage. Tillage is an effective option in some cropping systems, but some species of clovers may not be effectively killed — and multiple passes cancel out any soil health or conservation benefits.

Mowing. This is best-suited for smaller acreages.


Herbicides are an effective cover crop termination tool, according to Sarah Lancaster, weed management specialist and Anita Dille, weed ecologist. Farmers need to consider:

Cover crop species. Match the herbicide to the species in your cover crop blend. Selective herbicides might be best for single-species plantings, but nonselective herbicides such as glyphosate, glufosinate or paraquat are recommended for mixed-species plantings.

Growth stage. In general, as in any plant, herbicides are more effective on younger, less mature plants. They lose effectiveness once the plant has entered reproductive development.

Residuals. Residual herbicides like Prefix or Authority Maxx can be used, and research shows including them can control waterhemp and protect soybean yields better than chemical termination without residuals. Be sure, though, to consider potential injury to the following crop.

To learn more, visit bit.ly/ccterm.

K-State Research and Extension contributed to this article.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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