Friday, September 26, 2014

'Tis the Season for Cover Crops

I am excited to be more involved with cover crops this year.  This additional 'crop' that is planted in the fall, grows until frost and will either die over winter, or come back in the spring (depending on what you plant).  It will benefit our soil health by increasing our soil organic matter.  It will decrease erosion by keeping the soil covered (above ground) and the holding the soil in place with the roots (below ground).  The cover crops will also take up nutrients from the soil and hold them.  Those nutrients would otherwise be at risk of loss through erosion or leaching through groundwater in tile.  As the cover crops decay in the spring the nutrients become available for our corn or soybeans.

This will be our 5th year planting cover crops on our farm.  We are trying things a little differently this year.  The last 4 years we've planted by aerial application where a plane flies over the field and spreads the seed over standing crop.  This year we had someone with a high clearance sprayer drive into the field of standing crop, and plant the seed through tubes hanging down off the spray boom.  

Water quality is a hot topic in Iowa lately, and is the reason we are trying to incorporate cover crops on our farm.  It is ironic that in the last 4 years of planting the cover crop, we've had a hard time getting it established because it was too dry.  This year we've had a hard time getting it applied because it is too wet!

We still have a lot to learn about how to make them work, but we think they have potential.

Hagie application. 

Seed coming out of the tubes hitting the deflector plates to scatter.

The small lighter oval seeds are rye.  The round dark seeds are vetch.
Aerial Application (this was on a farm in the Boone River Watershed)
Aerial Application (this was on a farm in the Boone River Watershed).


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