Right now you have to look for it. The cover crops are still coming up, and may be hard to distinguish from young corn sprouting from grain left in the field. It was a tough year to harvest corn, and it only takes a small amount of grain sprouting to make a field look green this time of year. Soon that will be gone courtesy of Jack Frost, if it isn't already. What will be left if it's green will be cover crops.
You're not going to find them on every farm. But from all indications you're going to find them on more farms than normal. Both the Indiana Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation Service have had great response to programs cost-sharing for cover crops. The big interest among new users is to tie up nitrogen not used by the meager corn crop in 2012 before it leaches away over the winter.
For veteran no-tillers it's off to the next step. Many are looking for new ways to apply cover crops that either gets the seed on in a timely manner, saves a trip across the field, or both. Ray McCormick was seeding cover crops as he combined last week. We rode a couple rounds was he seeded crimson clover and annual ryegrass off of his soybean head, using a Gandy orbital seeder designed specifically for this purpose. It was shown at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, and was tabbed as one of our editor favorite products in our October issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer.
Gandy made the unit after Ray made up his own rig last year to run off the corn head. He used it again this year, and is happy about the cover crops that are peeking through the stalk residue already where he ran corn early.
Working across the Wabash near Palestine, Ill., last week, he was still fine-tuning the system off the grain head. Mounting the unit on the grain head and figuring out how to power it required a lot of innovative engineering which he and his son, Nate, supplied. The motor that drives the metering system is electric, but the pump that blows out the seed to various tubes on the head is hydraulic.
They had to figure out how to tap into the hydraulic system on the machine. At first the pump the company sent with the unit required too much oil compared to what the unit running off the combine could supply. He's switching to a smaller unit, and hopes to improve how well the unit works.
He's seeding the annual ryegrass to help cover the soil and get deep rooting next spring. The crimson clover is to provide nitrogen for the corn crop in 2013. Both crops will help scavenge on to any nitrogen left behind, even after soybeans.
So look for a 'greener' countryside this fall and winter, wherever you're driving, but especially on Indiana highways and byways.