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Try Far-Out Conservation Practices on Small Scale First

Try Far-Out Conservation Practices on Small Scale First
Not every conservation-minded idea will fit your farm

Last summer we shocked some of you by running a picture of soybeans intentionally seeded into corn that was waist-high or bigger. It was an attempt to grow nitrogen for corn during the season. There were also cover crops emerging. That was all about trying to get cover crops started before harvest in the fall.

Here's the rest of the story.

Mike Starkey, Brownsburg, believes in trying new things. But he tries them on a very small scale, usually in an area that he devotes to trying various new practices. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Either way, he figures it's a cheap way to learn if ideas that work for someone else that you've heard about would work for you.

Not the answer? These soybeans were seeded into a small trial area on Mike Starkey's farm last summer. He says this idea is likely not the answer for him.

Related: Get Ready for the Cover Crop Boom

Why did he try it? "Getting cover crops seeded early enough is a big deal," he notes. "Some guys, largely in Canada, are playing with seeding cover crops early in the season into corn when they apply nitrogen.  Corn shades it from getting too tall, but it's there and going once you harvest the corn."

The idea for trying soybeans between corn rows, at relatively low seeding rates, was an attempt to grow nitrogen for the corn crop, Starkey says. He had talked to a few other innovative no-till farmers who thought it might work. Starkey relies on no-till and cover crops on his entire operation.

The soybeans came up. It looked strange but yet interesting when corn was waist-high or better, he recalls.

Related: Southern Illinois Farmers Design Custom Cover Crop Seeder

So what does he think now? "It's not the answer, at least not for me," he says. "For one thing the mechanics of getting it out there at the right time would be difficult.

"I think we're better off figuring out more practical ways to get cover crops started earlier before fall harvest. For me, that's likely going to be looking harder at aerial application into standing crops."

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