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Rain Gives Cover Crops a Good Start

Rain Gives Cover Crops a Good Start
Farmers who seeded cover crops early starting to see benefits of timely planting

Roger Wenning in Decatur County is just in the middle of harvest. He still has corn and soybeans in the field. But in most of his fields, cover crops that protect the soil over winter and into the spring are already growing. He had some fields seeded by aerial application, mostly in mid-to-late September.

He's finding germination and good early growth of his cover crops within standing corn. Compared to previous years, the growth and stand is as good or better than what he's seen before.

Young plants: Cover crops are up and growing in this field. Species present include annual ryegrass, crimson clover, rape, radishes and oats.

This year he broadened his cover crop mix to try to accomplish a few different things. He has leaned heavily on annual ryegrass in the past, and used it again this fall. However he also added several other species.

His primary mix was a five-way blend of annual ryegrass, oats, radishes, rape and crimson clover, he says. All five are emerging.

"I wanted to back off on the amount of annual ryegrass growing in the spring," he says. "We like it, but I wanted to have other things in the mix so it wasn't so dominant."

He expects the oats to die off and winterkill, but they will provide cover until colder temperatures come this winter. The radishes will likely also winter kill. The rape may or may not winterkill, he notes, depending upon the winter.

What he hopes to end up with next spring is a manageable sand of annual ryegrass for deep rooting, with crimson clover mixed in. If allowed to grow long enough, the clover can produce some nitrogen.

Wenning has been a leader in promoting cover crops and trying different mixes. His farm is one of the hub farms for the demonstration project for the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative this year.

Cover crops can help conserve moisture, keep soil covered and provide residue going into the cropping season. Download our free report Cover Crops: Best Management Practices

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