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Serving: IN

Not All Cover Crop Varieties Are Created Equal

Not All Cover Crop Varieties Are Created Equal
There is a huge difference in how adaptable varieties are to Indiana.

With more people planting cover crops it's probably not too early to line up supplies of cover crop seed for this fall, especially if you're looking for annual ryegrass or some atypical crop. Stephanie Smith, field agronomist for DuPont Pioneer in northeast Indiana, says that seed availability can become an issue.

Pioneer does not sell cover crop seeds, but she has many customers who plant cover crops. Many of them no-till as well, and are using cover corps to augment the no-till system.

Kill power: You want to be able to kill down your cover crop, whether it's annual ryegrass or cereal rye, shown here. Some varieties are easier to kill than others.

The reason you want to line up supplies is so that you can get the variety you want, she says. There's a big difference in varieties that some suppliers sell in the Midwest. Most of the annual ryegrass is grown in the far West, but some of it is adaptable to Indiana winters and some of it isn't adapted and typically winterkills and freezes out if planted here.

Roger Wenning, Greensburg, has planted cover crops for several years. He also has cover crop plots on his farm. When he first began experimenting with annual ryegrass, he put out plots comparing varieties that were being sold. He was surprised to see how much difference there was in the varieties.

"Some just aren't adapted to Indiana and won't survive well unless it's a mild winter," he says.

One variety that Smith says some have tried to sell in her area is Gulf annual ryegrass. The problem with it, she notes, that is much harder to kill in the spring than many other varieties. That makes it less desirable to most growers who plan on planting into the annual ryegrass and then burning down the cover crop right away.

"Sometimes you can get seed cheaper, but it may be varieties that don't do as well here," she says. "You always need to know what you're getting."

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