We have talked about cover crops a lot on this podcast. Today we speak with both a farmer and an extension agronomist about the decision-making required to introduce cover crops into an operation. Greg Amundson is a 4th generation farmer who farms with his dad near Gilby, North Dakota. Amundson began his venture with cover crops through an EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) with the NRCS. He explains how he approaches farming from a strict bottom line perspective when he says “I don’t push for top yields. I push for the top return.”
“You don’t learn from your successes, you learn from your failures. So if you don’t fail, you don’t know if what you’re doing is right or wrong.” Greg Amundson
We are also joined by Greg Endres, a Cropping Systems Specialist with NDSU Extension. Endres focuses his efforts on bringing more data to cover crop decision making as cover crops are generally new to many productions. He hopes to make the information available to producers in order to make the most informed and beneficial decisions.
“If we have university data for people as a starting point for cover crops, that’ll give them a better chance of being successful with their cover crop and soil health program.” - Greg Endres
Endres shares that there is not a “one size fits all” to success with cover crops. Environmental factors and crop rotation considerations must be taken into account when making decisions about what cover crops to plant and when. “It all boils down to the amount of moisture and especially timely moisture,” explains Endres. While a cover crop can provide many benefits to the soil he cautions producers from discounting the amount of soil moisture the rye or other cover crop will take up and eliminate from any interseeded crops. One study is exploring the measurement of soil moisture to determine the rye termination date with the understanding that a poorly timed killing of the rye can adversely affect the yield of the main cash crop. While interseeding with a cover crop can present this risk of limited resources for crop yield, as always there are many apparent benefits to be factored in.
“The winter rye can serve as a substitute for a pre-emergence soil applied herbicide. So in other words, you can either use rye as a suppressant and terminate the rye when appropriate. That rye will hold back weeds quite nicely. And it can be a substitute for a soil applied herbicide…..So you’re trading management with herbicide usage.” - Greg Endres
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