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Location Affects Cover Crop Success

Location Affects Cover Crop Success
Cover crops that work in Warsaw may not work in Vincennes, and vice-versa.

Carl Schmitz had it right when the 2014 Master Farmer honoree told the Indiana Farm Management Tour crowd last summer that what he did with cover crops on his farm in Posey County and what someone might do in central Indiana are different. His farm is south of Louisville. And northern Indiana to him in Indianapolis!

Location matters: Cover crops like turnips will winterkill most years in central and northern Indiana, but not always in southern Indiana. Duane Drockelman, Ripley County, examines a field of turnips and radishes in late fall.

"If we raise turnips, they don't even winter kill in many seasons here," he says. Last winter was an exception. In other parts of the state, you can count on them winterkilling and plan accordingly for the spring, and for what else to include with them. And you will know when they winterkill because your neighbors will probably call the fire department, telling them there is a propane gas leak nearby. That's what many people like a field of dying and dead turnips smell like. That could happen soon in many parts of the state, although it's not nearly as likely in Posey County.

"Location matters when it comes to cover corps," says Jamie Scott, Pierceton. He and his dad, Jim, and mother, Kathy, no-till and concentrate on getting the most from cover crops.

"We have to remember where we are in the state when we consider what cover crops we want to use and how we are going to establish them," he says.

Cover crops need to be seeded even earlier in his area of the state than they do farther south. That challenge has led him to aerial seeding for most of his cover crops. He even helps manage aerial applications on a custom-basis for a large number of cover crop growers in his area.

One thing that helps his no-till and cover crop combination work well is that his family has improved drainage over the years. Of the 2,000 acres they farm, only about 30 acres doesn't have a pattern tile drainage system, he says. It's a real plus to have good drainage if you're no-tilling with cover crops.

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