Cover crops. - Page 2 - The Combine Forum
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post #11 of 44 (permalink) Old 11-09-2018, 10:03 PM
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Things that will work in Iowa, Ohio, ect. won't work the same for me where I am, and what I can do here sure won't work in Western Canada. Without knowing much about the area I would guess in the short growing season you have your options are quite limited, and not always ideal for profitability. Inter seeded clovers in small grains might, but could lead to harvest issues and the cover might get smothered out. Someone big on cattle might be able to do crop/graze/crop/graze but would only have a crop every other year per field and probably about like going back to summer fallow. Flip side is you might have awesome soil fertility after 10 years, if they can make it pay.


Several (me included) around here playing with inter seed covers in corn at sidedress but that can be weather dependent, mine didn't get done this year from too much rain. Establishment is good, but can get shaded out later in season once corn gets big. Have had them flown on before but spendy. Looks great when it catches but just a little too much ground residue and you will have about 0% come up.

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post #12 of 44 (permalink) Old 11-09-2018, 11:02 PM
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I've had the same good intentions, and finally found a way to put it to the test last year. It was a miserable failure by most accounts.
Too much moisture is our limiting factor most years and a thirsty cover crop in the spring should be a good fit.

We seed as soon as the ground is fit in the spring, and most harvest is done long after freeze up, so options are limited. We were considering doing some organic, so I underseeded a couple partial quarters to a blend of clovers at the same time as the barley, with the intention that it would be a plow down cover this year, or better yet, cow feed then plow down.

Big dump of rain immediately after seeding, then basically didn't rain again all summer, or this spring/summer again. So the higher ground didn't amount to anything, lower ground did very well, much better than the barley which drowned out right after seeding. Silaged the clover in the low spots.

By this spring, we had abandoned( or postponed) the organic idea, so the plan was to leave the clover growing and fixing N as long as possible, green seed into and terminate it. When conditions turned from wet to desperately dry almost overnight this spring, we terminated the clover as soon as possible to save some moisture, and seeded canola into it shortly after.

The lower areas where the clover was lush had very poor canola, there was just not enough moisture left.

Roundup alone wasn't as effective as hoped on young clover either.

Need a lot of moisture to make it work, which we normally get, but 1/4 of normal this year, and nearly as bad last year( got it all at once) doesn't lend itself to cover crops.

Les Henry had an article about this recently:

https://www.grainews.ca/2018/10/10/l...-green-manure/

I will try again, 1 in 100 year droughts don't happen very often...

I think the only really effective way to make it work in our short seasons and still be profitable is to have enough livestock to make use of the cover then dedicate a year just to the cover crop, perhaps seed a winter or fall crop into it after.


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post #13 of 44 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 10:37 AM Thread Starter
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That was another idea I thought of was to winter graze it for my cattle. Don't have enough of them anymore to make that pay either tho. Was hoping to be able to get a stand going of something in mid September I could possibly get a month of growing on it if conditions were good. Then either winter graze it or direct seed I to it in the spring. But if it's not going to fix any N in that amount of time then I'm probably just doing a lot of work for nothing really. Unless I could cut and bale it the year after for feed. But again might just be taking the long road if it will barely provide any N into the soil. Currently put a alfalfa grass blend in production for about 3-4 years for feed and then terminate. Don't know if there would be any benefit or if the dollars and cents would work out by having a different feed every year on a different 1/4 by doing a winter cover and using it for feed.
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post #14 of 44 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 02:31 PM
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The possibility of a month growing doesn’t give much hope for covers. Might be better off digging right after harvest and let what comes out the combine grow to scavenge.
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post #15 of 44 (permalink) Old 01-18-2019, 03:11 PM
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I definitely wouldn't give up on the idea. I've been experimenting with covers myself and have had some success and some failures. Without knowing your exact location I would guess that you have similar heat units, but more moisture than I get. If we can get six weeks of growth before killing frost I think that makes success much more likely. Not an expert on clovers, but field peas, faba beans, lentils, and hairy vetch are maybe some options that can handle a few frosts before calling it quits. with our short seasons having an understory in existing cash crops might be the best way in the long run, but I haven't figured it out yet. If you have canola in your rotation I would be leary about having too much radishes or turnips in your mixes.

As far as moisture goes. we lose a lot of fall moisture to evaporation. I've seen data that even though cover crops use water in the fall, by the time spring rolls around the moisture in the soil is equal to or higher where the cover crop was when compared to fallow. you can't improve water holding capacity of your soil without actually growing something that improves soil structure. With that said I had a recent disaster due to rye using up moisture in the springtime this past year and my cash crop on that particular field was the worst on the farm due to drought conditions.


I agree with a previous poster about a diverse cash crop rotation, but I want to accelerate the process because I believe I will be more profitable the sooner my soil becomes healthier...
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post #16 of 44 (permalink) Old 01-19-2019, 04:03 AM
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In 2016, I had post harvest volunteer lentils growing well into the end of October. That's almost 2 months of growth. They didn't bloom so they likely didn't fix anything but the light frosts we had didn't kill them either. We are on the gumbo so often have some extra moisture in the later season and lentils can take some cold. This observation got me thinking about drilling in lentils right after lentils come off and letting them grow as green manure, seed through it in the spring.

My concern is what the new seed will do after being put in the ground. It should use nitrogen in the seed to start and leave the soil stuff alone for a while but at some stage it will go after the soil stuff. Maybe there is a point where you have to terminate the crop before it does that. Don't want to recycle N into a less available form.

My other thought was putting lentils and soybean (which I have never grown) back to back in rotation and the 3rd crop wheat. Shouldn't have any disease issues with these three crops, good difference in chemistries, build N the first 2 yrs, build up organic matter in the 3rd yr.
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post #17 of 44 (permalink) Old 01-20-2019, 12:06 PM
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I believe the cover crop scenario will work anywhere. Going to do some myself here and am building a seed supply occasionally with several bags of tillage radish and hairy vetch. I am hoping to grow radish for seed and vetch as well to eliminate the cost of seed purchasing. I want some Austrian peas eventually too. Rye grass etc. I think the only ones drinking the Kool aid are the ones who believe that man knows more about soil health than mother nature. We are destroying soil health at a rapid rate. Your soil is an well balanced ecosystem of bacteria and fungus which need each other to exist and produce its own nutrients and balance good with bad to control an equilibrium. We take and mono crop the death out of our soil, using herbicides and recently fungicides which really destroy mychorhrizial fungi in our soils. Sure we bump our yield for a few yrs eliminating harmful fungus but what happens down the road. University education funded by huge corporations would like you to believe they have the answer and they do with a cost to you. Your input costs continually increase and increase as the yrs go by and your yields go up but your bottom line profit never increases. Funny where the money goes? Who is the smart one in the scheme of things. We can all grow a crop with synthetic everything. Enough ranting by me now about we all got lead down this path lol.
Farming with cover crops successfully requires more than seeding some seed after harvest. I have done a pile of research and where we all assume it won't work is with the number of growing days after harvest. We all have been lead to believe that a plant needs to be by itself to grow successfully. Mother nature has no such monoculture. My plan is not to seed after harvest but just like desiccating with your high clearance sprayer use those same lines to broadcast your cover crop seed in crop at the proper time . Again we have been taught that we must put the seed in the ground. Why? We have tilled the soil to the point that our organic matter is so low we have little on the surface like mother nature has. Seed falls into a blanket of straw residue and a shower comes and the seed gets enough moisture to develop a root.
Next Hairy vetch is an excellent producer of nitrogen. It doesn't grow tall and competes with weeds very well. Where the tillage radish grown with this cover comes in, is in its tuber. Radish has such an ability to penetrate real deep in the soil structure. It allows those huge rains to actually go into the soil rather than washing away down the ditch. Your hills can actually absorb moisture in the decaying tuber holes rather than flowing to the low land. Radish will gather the N your plants cant access down deep as well as other nutrients etc and that the hairy vetch produces as well. Radish store this in the tuber and as winter comes these nutrients remain there. In the spring as the tubers rot, all these nutrients are available for your seeded crop once the roots reach it. You just fertilized your field quite a bit with out a salt based synthetic fertilizer and tilled your soil deep and increased your organic matter with just spreading seed. This is just the start of a process I believe and fertilizer will still be needed a bit until you get your soil health up. It took us yrs of mismanagement of our soils to become dependant on synthetic fertilizer and it will take some time to get organic matter and bacteria etc into the soil. Animals on the land yrs ago played a big part of adding nutrients as well and that is also a plan as well in the near future for me. I don't need to own them just to use them. A simple fence and some water available and what farmer wouldn't run his cows on your field lol.

I could go on for hrs on making a perfect system, which I haven't even started to prove to myself yet, but there are those out there who have. You Tube Gabe Brown. He has taken covers and experience to a whole other dimension. Like Gabe says Change your operation from writing your name on the front of the cheques to the back.
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post #18 of 44 (permalink) Old 01-20-2019, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by dookiller View Post
I believe the cover crop scenario will work anywhere. Going to do some myself here and am building a seed supply occasionally with several bags of tillage radish and hairy vetch. I am hoping to grow radish for seed and vetch as well to eliminate the cost of seed purchasing. I want some Austrian peas eventually too. Rye grass etc. I think the only ones drinking the Kool aid are the ones who believe that man knows more about soil health than mother nature. We are destroying soil health at a rapid rate. Your soil is an well balanced ecosystem of bacteria and fungus which need each other to exist and produce its own nutrients and balance good with bad to control an equilibrium. We take and mono crop the death out of our soil, using herbicides and recently fungicides which really destroy mychorhrizial fungi in our soils. Sure we bump our yield for a few yrs eliminating harmful fungus but what happens down the road. University education funded by huge corporations would like you to believe they have the answer and they do with a cost to you. Your input costs continually increase and increase as the yrs go by and your yields go up but your bottom line profit never increases. Funny where the money goes? Who is the smart one in the scheme of things. We can all grow a crop with synthetic everything. Enough ranting by me now about we all got lead down this path lol.
Farming with cover crops successfully requires more than seeding some seed after harvest. I have done a pile of research and where we all assume it won't work is with the number of growing days after harvest. We all have been lead to believe that a plant needs to be by itself to grow successfully. Mother nature has no such monoculture. My plan is not to seed after harvest but just like desiccating with your high clearance sprayer use those same lines to broadcast your cover crop seed in crop at the proper time . Again we have been taught that we must put the seed in the ground. Why? We have tilled the soil to the point that our organic matter is so low we have little on the surface like mother nature has. Seed falls into a blanket of straw residue and a shower comes and the seed gets enough moisture to develop a root.
Next Hairy vetch is an excellent producer of nitrogen. It doesn't grow tall and competes with weeds very well. Where the tillage radish grown with this cover comes in, is in its tuber. Radish has such an ability to penetrate real deep in the soil structure. It allows those huge rains to actually go into the soil rather than washing away down the ditch. Your hills can actually absorb moisture in the decaying tuber holes rather than flowing to the low land. Radish will gather the N your plants cant access down deep as well as other nutrients etc and that the hairy vetch produces as well. Radish store this in the tuber and as winter comes these nutrients remain there. In the spring as the tubers rot, all these nutrients are available for your seeded crop once the roots reach it. You just fertilized your field quite a bit with out a salt based synthetic fertilizer and tilled your soil deep and increased your organic matter with just spreading seed. This is just the start of a process I believe and fertilizer will still be needed a bit until you get your soil health up. It took us yrs of mismanagement of our soils to become dependant on synthetic fertilizer and it will take some time to get organic matter and bacteria etc into the soil. Animals on the land yrs ago played a big part of adding nutrients as well and that is also a plan as well in the near future for me. I don't need to own them just to use them. A simple fence and some water available and what farmer wouldn't run his cows on your field lol.

I could go on for hrs on making a perfect system, which I haven't even started to prove to myself yet, but there are those out there who have. You Tube Gabe Brown. He has taken covers and experience to a whole other dimension. Like Gabe says Change your operation from writing your name on the front of the cheques to the back.
Dookiller, some excellent points and ideas. Please keep us updated as you implement and test them.

I especially like the comment about adding cattle, and not needing to be the ones owning them. It looks to me like there is a huge void waiting to be filled, where a grain operation could add cattle, or a cattle operation could make use of grain land without adding any costs to either of them, with benefits galore. I keep hanging onto the cows in spite of saying we will get out of them, but I use them to improve a lot of acres every year. And if we ever do pursue organic or keep adding covers, they can really make them economical.

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post #19 of 44 (permalink) Old 01-21-2019, 12:08 AM
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post #20 of 44 (permalink) Old 01-21-2019, 12:52 AM
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I put about 40 acres of white clover in with my wheat after in crop herbicide last year and seemed to grow well I'm hoping it will over winter Okay as well as building nitrogen and soil structure. Ideally it would be nice to seed into it being a very low growing clover and eventually cut herbicide use down.
The year before I overlapped 20 feet and seeded full rate canola and full rate peas and I would almost like to say it seemed like it grew just as well as the monocrop. Peas were a little smaller and maybe a slight yield drop. I swathed them together when I cut the canola and the timing was about perfect This year I'll try it on a larger scale.

I do believe there is truth behind this whole cover crop thing but when you start pricing blends it can get a bit pricey so before I jump in with two feet I'll definitely do little trials myself. I also think looking 10-15 years in the future consumer demand/pressure may eliminate some of the tools we have available to us today so best to stay ahead of the curve.

My agronomist thinks I'm crazy every time I bring up the idea of intercropping/cover crops. Better off spending the money on nitrogen is what he says.

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