Farmers have either been applying cover crops, or hiring others to do it for them, in a variety of ways and at what seems like a record pace. Many fields were aerially seeded in late August or early September. Others chose to adapt sprayers with drops in corn and other attachments in soybeans to apply cover corps before harvest. Still others will seed off the combine or seed off a vertical tillage tool immediately after harvest.
Cover crops seeded during the dry spell likely got off to a slow start, but are beginning to emerge and grow after most of the state received from an inch to four inches of rain around Sept 20 or Sept 21. Scott Gabbard, Shelby County Extension ag educator, was watching cover crop plots started on Kevin Carson’s farm that were to be used during a program held at the farm recently. He didn’t see much happen until it rained, he notes. By a few days ago, when the program was held, he saw plants beginning to emerge, and add a hint of grain to the areas where they were planted.
Moisture is key to making cover crops take off. Mike Plummer and the crew that seeded cover corps at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., used irrigation to make sure they would have cover crops to show when people visited at the show. Even then some emerged better than others. Water was critical in getting the crops up. It’s especially important when you’re seeding out-of-season during very hot weather.
Some farmers still prefer waiting until after harvest and seeding cover crops in with a drill. Whether that produces enough fall growth to provide cover and help the plant survive the winter, if it is a plant that should survive, depends upon the type of fall weather that occurs after planting. Most consultants don’t recommend seeding certain crops, including annual ryegrass, in October.