Stephanie Smith, field agronomist for DuPont Pioneer, says that many customers in her area used cover crops a year ago – an indication that cover crops are finding a home in northeast Indiana. Smith is based near Ft. Wayne.
She expects most producers to be using cover crops again this year. Reports from her customers indicate few had trouble burning them down this spring. That applied even to annual ryegrass. Whether or not farmers could burn down annual ryegrass, especially first-timers to the cover crop game, has been a big concern to those who want to promote use of cover crops to limit soil erosion and help build soil health at the same time.
The secret, Smith believes, is to start thinking about your plan for seeding covers already, even with the crop at mid-season. A large amount of the acres in her area last year were either aerial-applied or put on using a high-clearance sprayer with drop tubes. Some wait until after harvest of corn or soybeans to plant cover crops, but that can be cutting it close, she says, especially in her area of the state.
She believes aerial application can pay for itself, even though it involves an extra cost. The advantage of getting the seed an earlier start, even if by a few days, makes a difference, she notes.
Of course, aerial seeding or application with a high-clearance sprayer and drop tubes or other measures, such as a Gandy seeder mounted on the corn head or soybean head spreading seed as the combine cuts the soybeans or shells the corn, only gives you an advantage if it rains sometime after the seed is applied, Smith says. The goal is to get the seed out there, get enough moisture for germination, and gain a head start on growth during the fall.