The weather didn’t cooperate, especially early on, for early or even timely burndown of cover corps. If you’ve got cereal rye and it’s growing to heights you think are out of control, at least one farmer and some experts say there is no cause for alarm.
In fact, some farmers prefer planting into green, standing rye, and then burning it down. However, the catch is they want to no-till soybeans into it, not corn.
“I prefer letting it stand and no-tilling soybeans straight into it,” says Mike Starkey, Brownsburg. “It doesn’t bother me if it is almost head high. We have done it before and it has worked very well.
“What I don’t like is trying to burn down tall rye and then think you can no-till into it in a timely fashion,” he says. “Once the rye is dead, it no longer pulls moisture out. Instead, the residue can keep the soil covered and keep it wetter.”
Starkey also is convinced that rye provides more competition than many tough weeds that typically affect soybeans can handle. “We think it has done an excellent job at helping suppress marestail,” he says.
Avoiding no-till corn into cereal rye
What he doesn’t want to do if he can help it is being in a situation where he needs to no-till corn after rye, especially tall rye. The issue is that the rye ties up nitrogen, he notes. Corn needs a fair amount of nitrogen early in the season, when plants are making important decisions about ear size. If you are forced to plant corn into a rye cover crop, it’s important to increase the amount of nitrogen you apply as starter fertilizer, he notes.
Dan Perkins, watershed & conservation program specialist with the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District, says there is some evidence that allowing cereal rye to grow ahead of soybeans three weeks longer than normal, especially in sandy soil, can increase the amount of nitrogen held in the crop from 40 pounds per acre to 80- pounds per acre. That would be a plus, as long as you account for the fact that it is tied up and not available until residue breaks down later in the season.