Not Too Late to Cover Up

October 28, 2011 09:40 AM

It’s likely those planes buzzing Midwest corn fields prior to harvest were seeding cover crops. Aerial seeding into a standing crop just prior to leaf drop is becoming an increasingly popular way to make sure cover crops such as annual ryegrass get enough growth to survive the winter.

If you missed the fall seeding window, there is still the option of dormant seeding, suggests Nick Bowers, an annual ryegrass seed producer and co-owner of KB Seed Solutions, Harrisburg, Ore. Dormant seeding occurs in late November through February (soil temperatures less than 40°F) and is usually done with a no-till drill or broadcast.

"The ideal time to plant annual ryegrass in the Midwest is from mid-August to the end of September, especially if you expect to use it as fall forage. However, cover crops need moisture to germinate," Bowers says.

"Some regions experiencing extremely dry fall conditions might find dormant seeding a preferable option to a fall-planted crop that doesn’t get enough growth to survive the winter," he adds.

With dormant seeding, Bowers says, farmers might need to delay their spring herbicide burndown to realize the deep rooting and nitrogen uptake benefits that are associated with annual ryegrass cover crops.

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