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You really need a cover crop this year

By Harold Watters, Ohio State University Extension agronomist

So I made a trip to Omaha and back in mid-July. I attended the Sustainable Agronomy conference there and drove to the conference. Part of my goal was to do a windshield tour to see what the crops really looked like. Generally, nothing looks as it should. Ohio and eastern Indiana are the worst in many ways, but the total loss of crops due to floods in western Iowa and into Missouri were the most tragic — many losing not just this year’s crop but also last year’s that was still in the bin when floods hit this spring.

I drove out and back by two different routes to get a bigger picture of what’s there, on I-80 out and U.S. 36 back for the most part. I rated the crop on a 1-10 scale with 1 being just planted or mostly flooded out to a 10 being perfect — I think I only saw one 10. We made 110 observations doing a check on both sides of the road every 20 minutes. Dark cut off our observation at around Indianapolis on the way back.

Rating of corn and soybean crops on a trip from central Ohio to Omaha and back. The scale is 1 to 10, with 1 being just planted to nearly flooded out and 10 being as nice as you would expect in mid-July.

OhioIndianaIllinoisIowaMissouri
Ave corn2.54.97.16.87.0
Ave soy3.03.73.35.64.6
Unplanted25%30%3%13%39%

It really isn’t pretty anywhere.

 

This year you really need a cover crop

Typically, I place a cover crop article here now as I think early August is a great time to plant our fall seeded cover crops. It’s after wheat harvest, and this year there are maybe 1.5 million acres of Ohio cropland unplanted — put a cover crop there too. Mark Sulc, our OSU Forage specialist, is great at finding the value of cover crops, I choose his advice over many of the so-called cover crop experts. He created a quick and dirty table to point out some choices for summer to late-summer seedings. In addition to the species to choose from he has timing, seeding rate, and expected yield — this can also indicate the amount of cover for soil erosion protection too. He adds Crude protein and NDF as well so you may see the nutritional value if haying or grazing.

Annual Forage Agronomic Guidelines and Characteristics from R. Mark Sulc (sulc.2@osu.edu) on July 8. Yield and nutritive value vary greatly with maturity stage at harvest.

 

If you want additional ideas for cover crops that you do not intend to feed, and there is much overlap, then see the Midwest Cover Crop Council’s website and cover crop calculator: http://mccc.msu.edu/covercroptool/covercroptool.php. Much of my experience is with oat, and winter pea. For peas from the planting date trials I conducted, peas like an August to mid-September planting. With August planting you will get a lot of fall growth, then it will usually winter kill. With a September planting it will most likely not give you much fall growth, but survive the winter and continue growth in the spring. Peas are great to plant into; and have given me the best seed bed I think I have ever had for no-till corn.

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From the USDA RMA website (https://www.rma.usda.gov/News-Room/Frequently-Asked-Questions/Prevented-Planting-Flooding)   Can I plant a cover crop of the …

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