By Glen Arnold, OSU Extension Field Specialist – Manure management
As corn silage harvest starts, livestock producers and commercial manure applicators will follow with the fall manure application season. To best capture the nutrients in manure, manure should be incorporated during application or as soon after as possible. Livestock producers should also consider using cover crops to capture more of the manure nutrients and to prevent soil erosion.
The most common cover crops used with livestock manure are cereal rye, wheat, and oats. However, farmers have also used radishes, clover, annual ryegrass, Sudan grass or almost anything they are comfortable growing.
- Cereal rye is the most commonly planted cool-season grass for capturing excess nitrogen. Because rye over-winters, research has shown it can capture and hold 25 to 50 pounds of nitroge per acre , in the organic form as roots and plant tissue. It germinates at lower temperatures than oats so may be planted later, but less nitrogen will be recycled the later the rye is seeded in the fall.
- Another cover crop that is excellent at recycling nitrogen is wheat. Like cereal rye, wheat germinates at low soil temperatures, overwinters, and is an easy cover crop to control the following spring. It will also capture large amounts of the available nitrogen from livestock manure.
- Oats are sometimes used as a cover crop in the fall and need to be planted soon after silage harvest. Drilling oats improves germination and growth before frost. Some farmers in northwest Ohio have had great success surface seeding oats and incorporating with shallow tillage.
Cover crops can help livestock farmers recapture nutrients and conserve soil by reducing erosion. With potential new rules on the horizon in Ohio pertaining to manure application, all livestock producers should consider Best Management Practices when applying manure. The goal should be to combine nutrient recovery and protect the environment.