Here's a 10-step plan that should maximize benefits from cover crops, then kill them before planting.
Tom Stein, an agronomist and manager of the Templeton/Boswell branches for Ceres Solutions, provides this step-by-step for burning down cover crops as a place to start.
"Glyphosate will work fine to burn down your rye or annual ryegrass," Stein says. "But there are some important tips to remember."
1. Understand up front that annual ryegrass is more difficult to kill than rye.
2. Spray both annual ryegrass and rye when top growth is greater than 7 inches, and prior to first node, first joint stage.
3. Spray when plants are actively growing. That maximizes translocation. Shoot for daytime temps above 60 degrees F and nighttime temps above 40 degrees F.
4. Spray when the sun is shining!
5. Quit spraying four to five hours before sunset. Plants begin to shut down near the end of the day.
6. Use a 2x rate of glyphosate with a full rate of ammonium sulfate and non-ionic surfactant in 10 gallons of water per acre.
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7. Be sure to put AMS in the tank before you add glyphosate
8. Add the NIS to the tank last
9. Use flat fan spray tips. You want a medium droplet size for best results. Make the application at 20 to 40 pounds of pressure per square inch.
10. Be aware of the carbon-nitrogen penalty for corn.
Step 10 deserves more explanation, Stein acknowledges. If cover crops are supposed to add nitrogen back to the soil, why is there any kind of penalty? Truth is nitrogen returns to the soil as decaying material breaks down. It depends on when and how fast it breaks down, and when the nitrogen it contains might be available for crops. You need enough nitrogen there early when the corn plant makes important decisions.