Tag Archives: cover crop interseeding

Once The Floods Recede!

Geez, Louise! Another crappy winter leading into a way too damn damp Spring!

When the water recedes, many conventional tillers will be faced with another plague: erosion.

All the damage – washouts, drain tiles plugged, and the value of land washing on down the Mississippi!

In addition to damage to homes, barns, roads and bridges (and the extra cost to import and export product via detours!), farmers have to deal with the prospect of a late spring planting.

Image result for image grass in flooded land

Perhaps those who have practiced no-till and cover crops will sigh a bit of relief, if the soil is still on their property when the flood waters drop again. The sight of green grass or legume popping up above the leftover silt and muck will be like a day of sun. Cover crops on the field can be like money in the bank, and erosion protection is just the beginning. Here’s more info on planting annual ryegrass as a cover crop in the spring, if you want to start a new tradition on your land.

Click here for a free booklet on the management of annual ryegrass as a cover crop.

In the next month, those with cover crops will be “managing” their annual ryegrass. Managing, in this sense, means killing it with some form of glyphosate. It’s very important for this step to be done right; if it’s not, it can become a weed and a very robust one at that.

But, take heart, in the 20 plus years of our working with farmers throughout the Midwest, in New England, in the Upper and western Midwest, and in the southern-central provinces of Canada, paying attention to the details of spring cover crop management pays dividends immediately. The residual nitrogen becomes food for the young corn plants, for example. And the rotting annual ryegrass roots make room for corn roots to grow deeper into the soil, adding a layer of protection in the event of a dry summer. Finally, the massive decaying roots of cover crops feed untold gazillions of microbio life forms that contribute to healthier soil.

Best wishes to those of you with water on your property…may the Lord be merciful to you and your families! And when the water drops, consider going down to the Coop and checking out cover crops for protecting your property investment for the next go round. You may decide that trying out a small plot this spring – seeded into knee-high corn (interseeding method) will be this year’s innovation.

 

 

Towery and Kok to Present at NNTC on Cover Crop Variety

The upcoming 2018 National No-Till Conference in Louisville, KY (Jan. 9 – 12) will feature some familiar faces, but with them comes new information about how to make cover crops work for you. Here are two of the classroom presentations you may wish to schedule.

Towery and Kok NNTC 2018

 

Dan Towery and Hans Kok have been educating people on cover crop choices for close to 20 years. Towery helped to introduce  “interseeding” of cover crops into standing corn and beans about six years ago. This year, Iowa farmer Loran Steinlage will discuss his experience with interseeding, and the increases in crop production as a result.

Photo - interseeder from Iowa 2017

 

Here’s a link to the whole 2018 NNTC program

Interseeding Annual Ryegrass into Corn

The increasingly popular practice of interseeding annual ryegrass and other cover crops into spring corn continues to receive attention. Why?

  • In the Northern Corn Belt, growers find efficiency to seed cover crops in the spring, rather than the fall, when the window of opportunity for planting is very slim – between harvest and onset of winter.
  • The annual ryegrass gets established in young corn, but goes nearly dormant when the corn foliage creates too much shadow for more cover crop growth beneath it.
  • Interseeding annual ryegrass does not compete with the corn for nutrients or moisture, given that it goes nearly dormant.
  • Once the harvest is complete in the fall, the annual ryegrass picks up where it left off in the spring. The fact that the cover crop is already well established increases the chances it will survive the winter weather.

2015 Interseeding MN

It’s important to interseed the cover crop into corn that is about knee high. Dan Towery, an expert in interseeding, says that you want to let the corn get at least to V4 stage before planting the ryegrass. Otherwise it might compete with the corn for sunlight.

For more information, you can contact Towery at this email address: dan@agconservationsolutions.com

To read the whole article, click here. The article begins on page 17.

Annual Ryegrass – Now What?

Ok, so now the annual ryegrass is killed. It’s residue will soon become worm food. The decaying roots will become added food for a rich soil biology. The channels left by the decayed roots will create more friability in the soil…crumbly, pliable, spacious. Moreover, new corn and soybean roots will be able to find their way deeper into the soil profile, where added moisture and nutrients can build a more productive crop this year.

Some who are now contemplating corn planing activity may wish to consider adding a next round of annual ryegrass within a short time thereafter. For years now, producers have been having success with “interseeding” annual ryegrass into their corn, when it is less than knee high (V4- V5 stage).

We will cover this subject more in the coming weeks, but for now you could take a look at the following publications, each covering aspects of the reasons, the methods and the benefits of planting a cover crop in the spring.

2015 Interseeding MN

Penn State Extension Service article

Univ. of Minnesota Extension

Seeding Annual Ryegrass as a Cover Crop

Need…the mother of invention.

Since the beginning of the cover cropping boom, in the 1990s, innovators have been making continuous improvements to cover crop seeding technology.

Part of the drive to innovate was the need to extend the window of opportunity for the cover crop to survive. Seeding annual ryegrass after harvest didn’t reliably leave enough of a growing season to establish the crop before winter.

Late Summer or Fall Seeding

  • Aerial seeding allowed growers to put down cover crop seed while the corn was still in the field. The seed would germinate and establish as the harvest took place, opening up the annual ryegrass to fall sunlight and precipitation.
  • Highboy equipment was adapted to do the same thing as planes, and perhaps with a bit more accuracy
  • Lately, growers have been mounting air seeders on combines, in those locations where seeding at harvest does leave sufficient time to establish before freezing weather
  • This technique takes advantage of doing two things with one pass, saving precious time and money.

Spring Seeding

  • The practice of “inter-seeding” began in Quebec and has quickly taken off in the US. The idea, discussed previously on this site, involves seeding cover crops like annual ryegrass after the corn has reached about knee high (v 5 – 7). That gives the grass an opportunity to establish before the shade of the corn puts it into a kind of dormancy for the summer.
  • It seems that ongoing research has shown that too much shade can kill the grass. So the innovators are suggesting to plant a shorter variety of corn (less than 7′ tall at maturity) or plant the field at a rate of about 32,000 corn kernels/acre. That will give a bit more sun filtering through for the grass.
  • Once the corn is harvested in the late summer, the ryegrass – dormant for the summer – quickly resumes its growth before fall
  • This technique has an advantage over fall-planted cover crops simply because it has more time to establish before cold weather.

Interseeding Webinar – Seeding Annual Ryegrass and other Cover Crops in the Spring

This spring, the University of Pennsylvania conduced a webinar on the subject of interseeding.

As you may have read here in past blog posts, interseeding is done in the late spring, when corn and beans are sufficiently established (v 6 in corn) to plant annual ryegrass or another cover crop between the corn or bean rows. This planting is done with customized equipment – often a sprayer retrofitted with an air seeder. Some are combining this seeding effort with a side dress of nitrogen, to give the cover crop and the corn some boost.

 

2015 Interseeding MN

Interseeding has the benefits of being planted when there’s more time…trying to plant in the fall, around harvest, is often complicated with the harvest itself and sometimes weather. Interseeding has the added benefit of establishing a cover crop in the spring – which then goes semi dormant in the shade of summer foliage – and then its being able to get a good growth spurt in the fall after harvest. The early establishment of the cover crop thus increases the chances for the crop to survive the winter. It also acts as an effective weed suppressor.

Click here to access the webinar on interseeding.

Planting Annual Ryegrass as a SPRING Cover Crop

It may have begun in Canada, the practice of planting annual ryegrass as a cover crop into knee-high corn. Based on the pioneering work of cover crop innovators like Daniel Briere, an agronomist with Plant Production Quebec, hundreds of northern Corn Belt U. S. farmers are now doing likewise – planting annual ryegrass as a cover crop in the spring.

One of the biggest impediments to cover crop adoption has been planting them in in the fall after harvesting the main cash crop. Especially in the northern Midwest, where harvests can come off the field just before cold weather sets in, planting a fall cover crop has been difficult. Planting in the spring is therefore a great option.

Here’s a video of the equipment that’s being used to broadcast annual ryegrass when your corn is at five or six leaves. After it germinates and gets established, the annual ryegrass goes dormant for most of the summer because it is shaded by the corn. Then, in the fall, it takes off again, after harvest, and stays alive throughout the winter, provided there’s enough snow cover. Then, in the spring, the idea is to kill the annual ryegrass in the weeks before planting the next corn crop.

Interseeding equipment screen shot - JPEG

Although the idea of planting a second crop into the cash crop seems counter intuitive, it looks like the synergy of annual ryegrass and corn builds soil and adds bushels of extra corn at the end of the season.

Another benefit of interseeding is that, during corn harvest, the combine is rolling over the ryegrass, which further protects the soil from compaction and giving the combine added traction.

 

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.

 

A Wrinkle on Early Harvest to Get Cover Crops in

There are still a few fields in which corn and beans were not harvested from last fall…too much rain. In some cases, growers chose to harvest earlier, however, when the corn had about 27% moisture, rather when it dried out to about 20%. Doing so, this past year, meant a higher yield, but increased the cost to dry the corn out. But, it also meant that those growers had a better chance of planting a cover crop.

Difficulty with planting cover crops last fall may encourage even more to try interseeding, that is, planting a cover crop like annual ryegrass in late spring, when corn is already a foot high or so. This new method has been tested in southern Canada and, in the past couple of years, in the northern Corn Belt. While there is much more testing to do, some have seen an increase in corn yield with the spring cover crop planting.

Interseeding Annual Ryegrass in New Corn?

Quebec, Canada. Who’d have thought about planting cover crops there?

Daniel Briere, an agronomist with Plant Production Quebec, works with local farmers on a novel way to plant annual ryegrass – late in the spring, about six weeks after corn has emerged and reached knee height. Using modified high clearance equipment, the annual ryegrass sprouts in spring weather and then goes dormant in summertime, when the grass is shaded by corn.

ARG in Quebec - Spring Planted Cover Crop

After corn is harvested, the annual ryegrass is already very well established, able to grow until freezing weather, when cold and snow send the crop into dormancy again. Saddlebutte Ag, an Oregon seed grower, has provided the hearty annual ryegrass seed for the past four or five years, as the project has grown. Dan Towery, Midwest adviser on cover crops and President of the Soil & Water Conservation Society, has followed the project the past few years and said: “It could be a game changer for cover crop planting. I’m impressed. But I have to say, if you’re new to planting cover crops, wait on trying this…or try it on a small plot. It’s unclear how spring seeding of annual ryegrass will play out in the Midwest.

ARG in Quebec - November photo