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Innovators Adding New Options to Cover Crop Mixes

Innovators Adding New Options to Cover Crop Mixes

Farmers wanting to improve soil health trying different approaches.

Annual ryegrass of an approved variety and cereal rye are still staples amongst people using cover crops to build soil health. The season for sowing annual ryegrass and getting a good stand before winter has likely passed. However, cereal rye can be seeded well into November. Most years it will survive the winter and produce lots of growth next spring.

Those who are routinely including cover crops to improve soil health along with their no-till or minimum tillage system are also trying other cover crops as well. One of those is oats. If you seed oats, they will grow this fall yet die off during the winter.

Related: The Right Mix of Cover Crops

Cover mixes: Three, four and five-way cover crop mixes like this one are becoming more popular amongst no-tillers trying to fine-tune soil health benefits through selection of cover corps.

There is some evidence, however, that oats may root and provide a good food source for certain microbes in the soil, perhaps better than other cover crops you could choose. Mike Shuter, Frankton, who no-tills with cover crops and now also sells cover crop seed and even seeders, thinks adding oats will be a good addition to his program to build soil health.

He's also adding rapeseed to the mix in some fields this year. He has used turnips and radishes, and they are still popular choices amongst many people. They produce lots of top growth in the fall, especially if they were planted early. Both will be killed off by a normal winter.

Related: Consider Benefits of Cover Crops for Storm-Damaged Fields

In extreme southern Indiana, they will not be killed during a normal winter. Last year wasn't a normal winter. When they do die, they emit an odor that resembles leaking propane gas, sometimes so much like it that neighbors may call the fire department, thinking there is a gas leak.

Rapeseed is cheaper this fall, and Shuter believes he may get more growth from it in the spring. He's going to test this theory and see if it works in his system for him or not.

Thinking about a cover crop? Start with developing a plan. Download the FREE Cover Crops: Best Management Practices report today, and get the information you need to tailor a cover crop program to your needs.

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