Tag Archives: spring seeding of cover crops

ARG Cover Crop Seeded into 6-leaf Standing Corn!

In the cover crop revolution, there have been so many surprises…most have been pleasant…and yet, the surprises keep on coming.

When we started, it was a slam dunk that a cover crop on winter fields would reduce erosion. That was, however, only the tip of the iceberg.

  • Twenty years ago, people were surprised that annual ryegrass would survive a Midwest winter without constant snow cover.
  • Fifteen years ago, the surprise was how deep the roots of annual ryegrass sink into soil (sometimes more than 5 feet), through layers of compaction.
  • Farmers experimenting with annual ryegrass were more recently amazed about annual ryegrass’ ability to sequester N, thereby saving on fertilizer costs.
  • Initially, the “best” method of planting the cover crop was with a drill. Now we find a majority of farmers broadcasting seed from a plane or high clearance spreader.

So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that farmers in Quebec, Canada, have been seeing increased corn and soybean yields when planting annual ryegrass IN THE SPRING, when the corn is up but with only 3 – 6 leaves showing.

Doubters are now becoming believers, and expert cover croppers in the Midwest are being advised to try this out on limited acreage.

Check out this power point presentation from earlier this year, where results of three years of replicated trials in corn and soybean show some convincing evidence that a companion cover crop can actually boost production that same year.





Researchers Experimenting with Very Early Seeding of Cover Crops

Agronomy researchers in Pennsylvania and Quebec, Canada, are finding success with planting annual ryegrass and other cover crops early in the late spring, when corn is about knee high (“lay-by time”).

The more traditional time to plant annual ryegrass is either immediately after harvest or just before harvest. In both cases, cover crops are weather dependent…they need enough water to germinate and enough growing time before a killing frost to get established. More farmers are aerial seeding annual ryegrass just before harvest, which give it extra days or weeks to establish. Aerial seeding also frees up farmers during an already busy harvest time.

But few have tried seeding annual ryegrass in the late spring, thinking the shade of the corn would stifle growth and the heat of the summer would suffocate it. But over a three year trial in Quebec, the annual ryegrass established in the spring and, because it is shade tolerant, managed to stay alive throughout the summer. Then, once the corn was harvested, the fall weather gave the annual ryegrass all the daylight it needed to thrive.

In Pennsylvania, researchers are working with a new piece of equipment that will seed the cover crop, while also applying herbicide (for residual annual weeds) and fertilizer for the corn.

With a longer growing season, annual ryegrass will better survive harsh winters, sending down deeper roots.

More testing on this seeding method is necessary to prove its value elsewhere, but the results are promising.