Jack Maloney has gotten along well with annual ryegrass as a cover crop. He farms near Brownsburg, just north of Indianapolis. He is looking at other possibilities, but it still his cover crop of choice.
He uses cover crops in conjunction with no-till to build soil health. Maloney says that in fields with cover crops during the winter, he can often find corn roots down below the tile line a little bit later than this during the summer. He's convinced that cover crops pay off.
Carl Schmitz is using cover crops too. He would use them anyway, but where he farms he only has 50 acres of ground that isn't highly erodible. So keeping some kind of protection on the soil during the winter is essential to prevent excessive soil erosion on most of his farm.
Schmitz and his brother, Albert, farm near Wadesville in Posey County. His farm is actually about 30 miles south of Louisville, Ky. "We consider Indianapolis as northern Indiana," he quips.
What isn't a laughing matter is that he believes because Indiana is so long and stretched out, the changes in weather patterns from north to south can affect how well one cover crop may perform vs. another. It's a real phenomenon which might affect which cover crops you use, he believes.
For example, two years ago Schmitz used turnips as a cover crop. Unlike this past winter, that winter was mild. Freezing weather is supposed to take out the turnips so they are not a concern in the spring. They didn't in this case for Schmitz. "We had to knock them out before planting," he says.
He also says annual ryegrass usually gets too much growth in his area. He has had better luck using wheat and cereal rye as cover crops.
Both Maloney and Schmitz were inducted into the family of Indiana Master Farmers recently. The award is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture.
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