Cover crop options after wheat

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Think before you attempt to plant your first cover crop this summer after wheat. Many of us planned to plant double-crop soybeans when we saw that wheat was maturing early, but after three plus weeks of rain we finally have our wheat harvested. It’s too late for double-crop soybeans to be planted but may be a good year for a cover crop.What are our cover crop options?I like to think in terms of grasses and broadleaf species. Further, I prefer to place a broadleaf crop ahead of next years corn and a grass crop ahead of soybean. It helps maintain my rotation and keeps pests for the next crop to a minimum. At a field day just this week, Ron Hammond pointed out that insects may find a home in your cover crop then decide to stay over and impact your next cash crop. I also want to find cover crop seed that is readily available locally, a crop that has local adaptability and maybe even a crop that locals have some experience with.This local adaptability would include species such as our forage legumes, oats even cereal rye. Red clover planted in March into standing wheat is a good traditional cover crop too. Consider also what your livestock might like to graze.Two possible cover crops that I have worked with in research trials in Ohio include annual ryegrass and winter pea, both ahead of corn. I worked two years with annual ryegrass before dropping that work but experimented with winter pea over a five-year period.My first year trial results may or may not be like yours but it is certainly possible to have a disaster when attempting to grow a new crop. My experience in 2006 was bad, mostly due to stand loss in corn after annual ryegrass. Those insects Ron was concerned about hit me — stalk borer, black cutworm and even meadow voles took out too many corn plants. Annual ryegrass didn’t work out so well. One thing I did in year two was to add a planter applied soil insecticide at corn planting time to reduce the insect problems. With that in 2007, my yield responses were all equal — meaning corn yield was equal after wheat stubble, winter pea or annual ryegrass as the cover crop.The other goal of a cover crop is to potentially provide nitrogen for the next crop. In our Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybean, Wheat and Alfalfa there is the suggestion that annual legumes (grown for less than one year) provide about 30 pounds of nitrogen per acre to the next crop — the same expectation as after soybeans. My goal was to produce 75 pounds of nitrogen, thinking that would be a good goal. So I designed the trial with nitrogen rate increments of zero, 75 or 150 units of nitrogen in the corn grown after the various cover crops. I then conducted the trial for five years collecting the yield of corn grown after that winter pea cover crop. My results didn’t show much in the way on nitrogen produced — yields were 160 bushels per acre for corn after wheat with 150 units of N or 130 bushels per acre after winter pea with 75 units of N.So at least in Ohio trials over this five-year period, winter pea was not able to deliver 75 pounds of nitrogen to the corn crop. From my observations they may be able to produce 30 pounds, similar to what we would expect after soybeans and as noted in the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations.I did observe much improved soil conditions after winter pea; this made for a great no till seedbed for corn.last_img

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