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Innovators Push Envelope on Cover Crops

Innovators Push Envelope on Cover Crops
Some trying nine-way cover crop mix just to see which species provide benefits.

If it's your first year of trying cover crops and you're seeking help on weed suppression next spring and some root growth to begin helping your soil, cereal rye alone may be a good choice. Especially this late in the season, it may be one of the few cover crops that can get enough growth before temperatures drop very low so that it can survive the winter and produce good growth next spring.

Nine-way mix: Note the plants that look like miniature cattails. Those are Pearl Millet, a potential cover crop. There are eight other species of cover crops in this plot.

Then there are those who have grown cover crops for years and who have begun to see the benefits of soil health. Roger Wenning, Decatur County, falls in that category. He is stepping out and trying new things. In a plot he seeded in July after wheat this year, he seeded a nine-way mix of cover crops. This fall he dropped back to a five-way mix on many acres because it is working well for him. But he wanted to see what a nine-way mix might look like.

Related: What's In Your Cover Crop Mix?

The mix includes such things as Cahaba vetch and Pearl millet. The plants that look like slender cattails are the millet. They are growing with radishes, turnips and other species. Wenning hopes to take soil samples and other samples from various plots next spring so he can determine which cover crops produce nitrogen for his corn crop that will be planted next spring.

Understanding how cover crops can affect nitrogen release to crops is one of the next steps after you become comfortable with raising cover crops, he says.

Related: Innovators Adding New Options to Cover Crop Mixes

His overall goal is to improve soil health. Some of this soils have problems with past soil erosion. He's rebuilding soil, even though it takes a long time. He figures the material left behind by cover crops that becomes organic matter once the plants decay is one way to begin to rebuild soil health.

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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