New fast-growing cover crop mix
click image to zoom “TillageMax Homestead is a new three-way cover crop mix that is a true soil builder,” said Steve Groff, farmer and co-founder of Cover Crop Solutions. "Homestead needs only 45 to 60 days of growth in warm conditions to produce outstanding benefits."
Homestead includes three synergistic species: Tillage Sunn (Sunn hemp), CCS sorghum sudangrass, and Tillage Radish.
Tillage Sunn is a warm season legume. It creates nitrogen from the atmosphere and has deep roots to break compaction and boost microbial activity. The sorghum sudangrass adds large amounts of biomass and green cover to help suppress weeds. With its tuber and deep-growing tap root, Tillage Radish helps aerate tight soil and brings nutrients from deeper in the soil to the surface where they can be released for future crops through microbial activity. All three species add to biodiversity, which is known to help reduce disease and pest pressure in certain conditions.
The mixture of Tillage Sunn, CCS sorghum sudangrass and Tillage Radish has a two-stage effect. All three species emerge quickly. Then the two fast-growing tall species, Tillage Sunn and sorghum sudangrass, quickly create shade that holds the Tillage Radish in a slow growth mode.
Tillage Sunn, a tropical warm weather legume that thrives in dry conditions and poor soil, and is known to suppress nematodes. Through its symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, it can add more than 60 pounds of nitrogen in six weeks, according to the literature, even in northern areas, with the right weather conditions. The CCS sorghum sudangrass adds soil cover and biomass. These taller plants die with the first frost, opening up the canopy.
Tillage Radish is a unique radish variety bred more than 12 years specifically for use as a cover crop. With shade gone, it springs to life and continues robust growth for six to eight weeks, until a few consecutive nights with temperatures in the mid-teens, when it dies. As it grows, it takes up soil nutrients, including the legume-generated N, and holds them over winter, until release when soils warm in the spring prior to cash crop planting.
The TillageMax Homestead mix is a good choice for planting during the summer after small grain harvest, after corn silage is harvested, in a prevent-planting situation or when vegetable crops are harvested early.
Groff explained, "The sorghum sudangrass and the Sunn hemp will dry out over winter and provide coverage and help protect the soil surface from wind and rain erosion.
"Tillage Radish is excellent at providing ground cover through the winter and early spring." he said. "The foliage cover helps suppress annual weeds. With warming temperatures, the decaying tuber releases the captured nutrients, and attracts large numbers of earthworms in the spring, which is a big benefit. Farmers really appreciate the condition of the soil when planting time comes. It tends to be warmer, drier and more mellow – much easier to work and plant into."
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