Cover Crops Go Out in Different Ways

Farmers scramble to plant more cover crops.

Published on: Oct 8, 2012

The biggest post-harvest activity in some parts of Indiana this fall is not tillage – it's seeding cover crops.

Some were applied aerially or with specially modified spray rigs into standing corn and soybeans. Others are being broadcast as the combine goes through the field with a seeder mounted on either the corn platform or the grain header.

Ray McCormick, Vincennes, says he has a good crop of annual ryegrass already growing from seeding it off the corn head and under the residue in early September. He's still seeding cover crops, and will try a commercial unit designed by Gandy for this purpose when he combines soybeans. He and his crew are making the brackets to mount the seeder on the head.

Green carpet: Hopefully this field will be green with a cover crop, not weeds, after being seeded with rye from a sprayer converted into a cover crop seeder for the fall.
Green carpet: Hopefully this field will be green with a cover crop, not weeds, after being seeded with rye from a sprayer converted into a cover crop seeder for the fall.

Still others are doing light tillage after corn or soybean harvest. Then they're seeding cover crops. In at least one case, the farmer is seeding cover crops from a vertical tillage tool. He has the seeder rigged up to seed the cover crop and work it in lightly with the vertical tillage tool and trailing basket.

This particular farmer has tried cereal rye, but he has also tried other mixes, including a blend of oats and forage radishes.

Cover crops has bloomed into something far more than a fad this fall. With the possibility of capturing nitrogen not used by the crop during the season, more and more farmers are trying to get the cover to grow before the nitrogen leaches down below where cover crop roots can get it. Once that happens, the nitrogen will likely end up in waterways and streams.

The best covers left to sow as the clock ticks on are likely cereal rye and wheat. They are most forgiving on planting date. Talk with your seed supplier before seeding other cover crops.