A new Purdue Extension publication offers farmers a basic introduction and step-by-step instructions for using cover crops in a corn-soybean rotation.
The publication, An Introduction to Integrating Cover Crops Into a Corn-Soybean Rotation, is intended for farmers who are new to using cover crops. It describes the essential principles for developing successful cover crop systems, including adjusting the planter and planting practices, scouting for insects and using good-quality seed.
"Cover crops have many potential benefits, but farmers need to manage them carefully to avoid or reduce the risks to crop production," writes lead author Eileen Kladivko, professor of agronomy.
The plan presented in the publication involves no-till farming methods, a system designed to conserve fertile topsoil from year to year.
The initial steps to implementing a cover crop system, as explained in the publication:
* Plant cereal rye into corn stalks. This versatile cover crop is winter-hardy and can provide benefits if planted in late fall.
* Terminate in spring. The authors suggest killing cereal rye when the plants are 6-12 inches tall or two weeks before planting soybeans.
* No-till plant soybean into cereal rye. Take the earliest maturity soybean group for the farm and plant it first in the fields that will go to cover crops in the fall.
* Plant cover crops that die over the winter. A mixture of oats and daikon radishes are a good choice.
* No-till plant corn into the dead cover crop. If a few cover crop plants are present in spring, a normal burn-down herbicide program will kill the plants.