In Jasper County, they call Daniel Perkins the "cover crop guy." It's a term of endearment for him, and he has responded by updating farmers with newsletters, videos and more about the success of cover crops in his area.
Still in its infancy in parts of his area, he helps farmers experiment with different ways to make cover crops successful. He's also advising a farmer participating in a long-term cover crop grant project through the Conservation Tillage Information Center.
He is a conservation specialist working with the Iroquois watershed, based in the Natural Resources Conservation office in Jasper County in Rensselaer, he recently filed reports on some unusual cover crop experiments.
In a video he shot, Perkins shows a farmer preparing to plant into annual ryegrass back on April 19. The annual ryegrass in this plot was several inches tall and thick where it was seeded in rows. Many people reported poor overwintering for several cover crops, especially brassicas, and only decent success for annual ryegrass this past year.
The difference here, he says, is that the ryegrass was interseeded into standing corn 11 months before planting, into corn at the V5 stage. That allowed the ryegrass to get a good start, and to have good growth before winter came along.
The mid-November cold snap without snow cover harmed many cover corps last fall. This plot had enough growth to help it survive it.
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Others have tried interseeding. Some have decided it's not worth the hassle, and would rather wait and establish ryegrass by aerial seeding or using a high-clearance sprayer to drop it into standing crop in late August or early September. Most agree that planting annual ryegrass after October 1 in any year is risky.
If you're tempted to try interseeding now, Barry Fisher, agronomist for NRCS, says you need to be very careful about herbicides that were applied for corn. Almost any residual herbicide that was applied could have an impact on the cover crop. Check labels carefully.