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Good Growth on Cover Crops Helps Protect Soil

Good Growth on Cover Crops Helps Protect Soil
Southern Indiana farmer covers his farm with cover crops.

Part of David Ring's farm near Huntingburg in Dubois County is rolling. Without protection, soil erosion is a concern. That's why he's been moving toward using more cover crops on his farm.

This fall, Ring has cover crops on the majority of his acreage, and many of them have attained good growth. That's especially true where he seeded cover crops after taking silage off for his diary herd. He and his son maintain also raise turkeys on contract.

Great start: David Ring seeded this field to cover crops after removing silage earlier this fall.

This fall when he seeded early Ring used a mixture of cereal rye, radishes and crimson clover. The radishes are big now, but may die out over winter. The rye and clover will provide growth next spring. He will burn it down before planting. Besides providing cover and protection against soil erosion over winter and into the spring rainy season, the cover crops are touted for deep rooting. This will help build soil health. Roots have been found three feet or deeper in the spring from rye. Deep rooting from growth this fall from various species used as cover crops should help loosen the soil and improve soil health.

Cover crops remain a hot topic as some farmers have planted most of their acreage to them and others try them for the first time. The secret, Ring understands, is getting the seed on the ground so it can grow early, especially if you're seeding annual ryegrass or radishes. The primary cover that can be seeded late after typical crop harvest and still perform well is cereal rye. It is especially tall this fall in Ring's fields where he was able to seed it early.

Some agronomists caution against planting cereal rye in front of no-till corn unless you're experienced with the system. If you do so you need to front load the nitrogen in your corn fertilization program. Otherwise the decaying rye vegetation, often more rank than that of other cover crops, will tie up N when the corn plants are making important decisions about size of ear.

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