Tag Archives: interseeding cover crops

Exceeding with Interseeding

When you think about planting this spring, consider whether you might want to include annual ryegrass seed in the mix.

More producers are adding an annual ryegrass seeding in late spring, planted between rows after corn has reached mid calf to knee height.

Interseeder

Interseeding makes sense for a number of reasons. First, it’s a more reliable time to plant, rather than the fall, worrying about whether the weather will hold out long enough to establish a cover crop before freeze up.

Annual ryegrass will germinate quickly between the young corn crop, if there’s enough moisture. When the corn grows tall enough to shade the cover crop, the annual ryegrass goes dormant for the summer. Then, after harvest, the ryegrass takes off with whatever light is left in the fall. Having established it in the spring, there is an established root system, so the growth in the fall can be significant….perhaps even enough to graze, if that’s in your plan.

Interseeded cover crops have a better chance of wintering over because they were established early in the year. The crop will be there in the spring after the snow’s gone, and you can graze it again before killing it at about this time of year, before planting corn again.

Dan Towery, a longtime consultant to the Oregon Ryegrass Commission and a pioneer in cover crop agronomy, is an expert on interseeding in the Midwest. Any questions, give him a call. In Indiana, he’s at 765-490-0197.

 

Annual Ryegrass, a Question of Dormancy Answered

Annual ryegrass seed, as with most other seeds, has a protective device that maximizes its chances for successful germination. But it’s important to know about it, so that you can successfully grow the cover crop and be prepared to deal with any dormancy issues that arise.

Most ryegrass seed, used for cover cropping,is spread in the fall, after corn and soybean harvest. Sometimes, the weather or soil conditions are not ideal for seed germination. So, in some cases, the seed will lie dormant until better growing conditions exist.

But the idea of cover cropping is that you have fields covered year round, so as to prevent water and nutrient runoff. Thus, having your cover crop germinate in the fall is important.

Newer varieties of annual ryegrass have been developed for colder climates in the Midwest. And yet, getting the ryegrass to germinate and establish can be challenging, especially in late harvest years with sparse rainfall.

Those in more northern latitudes of the Corn Belt are now going to interseeding (seeding the cover crop into standing corn in the spring, when corn is not yet knee-high – v 5 or so.) That can be done with high clearance equipment or by plane. This method avoids the perils of late fall seeding, though it does continue to require good seed-to-soil contact and moisture for germinating.

Oregon State University, a trusted research institution for grass seed science, has published a short paper about dormancy. It’s available on our website near the top of the list of Research links, and if you CLICK HERE  you will find it easy to read and perhaps helpful.

Interseeding Annual Ryegrass

InterseederWith more than half of the nation’s corn planted, it’s closing in on interseeding time. Once the corn is at v5 – v7, you should be able to seed annual ryegrass with a modified drill or another modified high-clearance piece of equipment.

The value of interseeding has now been proven out, from southern Canada on either side of the Great Lakes, to the I-70 corridor in the US. In that belt, it’s difficult to find enough growing time in the fall to plant a cover crop. So, planting into growing corn in the spring is proving to be a valuable alternative.

What is key in this phase of cover cropping is that the seed have enough moisture to germinate and establish, before the corn foliage canopy creates so much shade that the annual ryegrass goes semi-dormant.

Having the cover crop in place throughout the summer doesn’t take away much nutrition or moisture from the corn. That’s because the cover crop hasn’t the sunlight to produce much vegetative or root mass. After harvesting the corn in the fall, the cover crop having been established in the spring, now has more of a head start for a quick burst of growth in the fall before wintertime.

For more information on interseeding, check out this video, from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Retrofitting Equipment for Cover Crop Seeding

When corn was knee high this spring, a growing number of producers tried “interseeding” annual ryegrass into the cash corp. We’ve talked about interseeding before and will continue to cover it as we gain more experience in field trials throughout the northern cornbelt.

Interseeding means planting annual ryegrass, or another cover crop seed, into standing corn early in the season, in this case June. The practice has become quite popular in southern Canada, above the Great Lakes.

In this photo, a grower has mounted a Gandy linear seeder on an old rotary harrow, with some of its tines removed. In this case, the grower was able to cover about 20 feet in one pass. The retrofit cost him about $11,000.

2015 Harrow retrofitted as a CC seeder

So far, only a small number of cover crop advocates in the US have tried interseeding, but more education about how and where to plant will entice others to try it too. The advice at this point is that if you’re located north of I-70 or, roughly, north of Indianapolis, you have a good chance of interseeding being profitable.

The reason a cover crop like annual ryegrass will work in those conditions are these:

  • Planted in the spring, even if wet like this year, annual ryegrass will germinate under the foliage of immature corn.
  • Later, with corn shading the ground beneath, the annual ryegrass will go semi-dormant.
  • After harvest this fall, the added light will jumpstart the cover crop again and, with established roots from the spring, the ryegrass will have a better chance of weathering a difficult Midwest winter. 

There are some distinct advantages of this kind of cover cropping system. First is timing. Fall time is often busy with harvest activities, hence cover crop seeding can get left until too late. Or, even if aeriel seeding into standing corn, if the Midwest is experiencing dry weather, cover crops can struggle to get established in the fall.

But there are also cautions about this type of cover cropping. First, if the summer is dry, the combination of no light and no water for the young cover crop, it can perish in the field before corn is harvested. Secondly, there are still questions about whether this kind of crop would jeopardize a farmer being able to qualify for insurance payments, should there be a crop failure because of drought, say.

 

Russian Livestock Plan Calls for Cover Crops

Russia has moved into mega farming of livestock, and a lot of American advisers have helped them along the way. Here’s an article segment from Beef magazine, from its June 2014 issue. The article introduces readers to Miratorg, a “vertically integrated” company owned by two shareholders (experienced ranchers) with mind-boggling expansion plans, aided by a hungry government.

In the aerial photo, below, one of 30 pasture/feed lots owned by Miratorg, this one hosting a population of up to 49,000 head. Miratorg’s slaughter plant is located about a mile away.

Miratorg 1 resized.jpg

“Miratorg is the leading investor in the Russian agribusiness industry. It’s the largest meat producer and supplier in the Russian market, thanks to its high-performing vertically integrated agribusiness holding that took a leading position in production, processing, logistic supplies and sales of agricultural products.

In a recent inquiry from Mark Dodd, a Purdue trained agronomist/consultant working for Miratorg, he wanted to know about cover crops. Here’s a part of his description of the farm operation at Bryansk…at about the same latitude in Russia as North Dakota.

“I am an agronomist here in Russia, the largest ag project in the world.  over 200,000 angus cows with calves, and not enough pastures, not enough forages, 1 million acres of crops, and I am trying to do everything possible to find different solutions to this problem.     Interseeding [of cover crops],  double crop after triticale or wheat harvest (July 10), [with the] first frost on about 0ct. 15.    Sandy based soils, poor pH,(but applying lime finally)  usually good rainfall, had drought this year.  Miratorg has its own slaughter plants, and over 500 grocery stores, largest employer in Russia, over 30,000 people..   People are still very poor and some are starving here.      I need some help with advice.”

Miratorg 3 resized.jpg

Dan Towery, a well regarded US agronomist and cover crop consultant for the Oregon Ryegrass Commission, has contacted Mark…and begun to tell him about the cover crop successes in the US and Canada, with annual ryegrass and others. We’ll let you know more about those discussions soon.