“I’m getting the question about farmers wanting to plant a cover crop. But it's kind of a generic statement. So I think what they’re really asking is what do I plant and when do I plant? Where do I start? Where do we begin on this journey? ” - Jason Hanson, Consultant with Rock and Roll Agronomy
Dr. Abbey Wick is a Soil Health Extension Specialist at North Dakota State University. She offers some great advice for farmers wanting to venture into cover crops and the many benefits they offer.
“The simplest place to start is if you have a wheat in rotation, just let the volunteer grow and that’s your first cover crop. If you have some additional goals that you want to address, whether its compaction in a field or salinity. Say you dig a hole in your field and the soil aggregates or the structure looks like it could use a little help then adding in some different cover crops to that volunteer wheat might be a good solution.” - Dr. Abbey Wick
If you don’t have wheat in your rotation then Dr. Wick offers interseeding something like rye into corn. Interseeding practices may require different row spacing so farmers need to be aware of those potential changes. Soybeans present a different challenge as they produce a strong canopy that may make it difficult for a cover crop to get established. Dr. Wick recommends adjusting your timing and method of seeding to compensate for this obstacle.
Cover crops can help manage salinity issues where soybeans or corn may suffer. They can help provide structure and better trafficability to the field. Most farmers will start with one species of cover crop at a time but a cocktail of species can be used. Typically radish or rye can be used as first cover crops depending on what rotation that field has. There are pros and cons to each species and how they interact with what the next crop is. Dr Wick highlights that knowing the crop you are adding to your field, knowing the next crop in rotation to avoid any contraindicated cover crops and knowing your goals are the three critical things to consider when starting with cover crops.
“Cover crops don’t have to be fancy mixes and they don’t have to be really complex to work. And I think that’s what I want farmers to walk away with.” - Dr. Abbey Wick
Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!
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