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For me cover crop is to put on my chem follow where I do not put a normal crop on that year. My growing season is to short and normally way to dry in the fall to get something going. I can totally get the good benefits that a cover crop can do for the ground ..shade,nitrogen , diverse plants and beneficial bugs, micro's,,increase organic. The one thing that I having a problem with moisture. Or in my case lack of. 8 to 12 inches of moisture I get a fair amount of wind to help dry things out. I totally get the shade wind protection a cover crop gets . However they do suck up moisture. When I go dig up even good dirt that has native grasses in it that does not get grazed if you go very deep at all even on a very wet year it will be like dry flower ....and on my chem follow there will be decent moisture....my number one restriction to yield most years is lack of moisture ....not nutrient level organic level ect... Not that would not help water holding capacity but if the cover crop takes up most of it and leaves me with less of the valuable water that I need then what ? I plan on planting some more cover crop this spring then spraying them out mid to late June. Hope I have enough vegetation to protect soil and maybe have the ground covered enough so I do not have to spray again tell a late fall application ?

Just curios what kinds of success or failures guys have had in low precipitation areas?
 

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Where I am at in sw North Dakota we have been wetter than normal the last few years and we are continuos crop. Haven't been doing this long but the experiences I have had have been very surprising. This year I bumped up to 250 acres of them and this was my best year to make to really see advantages. It finally dried out this fall but I had excellent moisture to get a great catch. The most surprising part is my heavy ground with no cover crop dried out and got very crusty and hard on top, my sand with a cover of red clover and volunteer wheat from previous year came like mad and some how remained a consistent moisture the entire time, and also mind boggling is that it took almost one more week for the ground to freeze up in the fall, when it snowed the snow laid an top the canopy and slowly melted down to the warm dirt. The old residue seems to be deteriorating at a much faster rate due to the shading and some how maintaining its moisture. I believe seeding into this good cover won't be a problem. Next year I plan to put the whole farm under cover, I am setting up a Phillips rotary harrow behind a concord cart so I can get them in in one pass. I think if it wasn't for the damp falls I would not have gotton these good catches but I think a guy just has to hang in there as the first few years may be tricky to get that good stand but this is soon to be the new way of farming in my opinion.

There is some very good informational videos on YouTube.com, wheat school and covercrops.com, and Missouri state have some awesome videos that can help get ya pointed in the right direction. Hope this is of some help
 

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What I have done in the past is establish a clover in clearfield canola or mustard. This allows a year of establishment to get going, then I harvest the crop and let the clover grow the next year to the end of June or early July. When it starts to bloom I spray it out using glyphosate only. It seems that a tank mix kills too fast and makes the clover brittle. Glyphosate alone slowly kills and makes the clover straw much more resilient.

By killing earlier, you still should get some good showers to fill up the profile. I would then seed a winter cereal into it so the soil has a growing plant sooner than if you wait for spring.

I think you could probably get a good catch of crimson clover if you were to frost seed it as the snow leaves and just tickle it in with a harrow.


Having switched out of chem fallow only recently, I sometimes wonder if what we perceive as better moisture conditions vs continuous cropped is actually poor soil structure and residue breakdown. Chemfallow seems to smear badly, not hold up equipment (getting stuck) and has poor resiliency.
 

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Having switched out of chem fallow only recently, I sometimes wonder if what we perceive as better moisture conditions vs continuous cropped is actually poor soil structure and residue breakdown. Chemfallow seems to smear badly, not hold up equipment (getting stuck) and has poor resiliency.
I think you are dead on with soil structure, I am in an area that grows mostly wheat and what I have been finding is that having something growing at all times is doing awesome things for the soil ( not just cover crops but also full season crops such as beans or corn), mostly the ability to hold water when weather is dry and infiltrate the excess. I am a beginner at this and I cant believe the improvement I see already.

I hope we get some more thoughts in here because I would also like to hear some more thoughts on ways to go about it, it seems with covers there is an option for every situation and I really think it is the new way of farming. Also some thoughts on chemical residuals and such is one thing I think can be overlooked from time to time, I have screwed up already myself
 

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We too, have been contemplating trying to implement some cover cropping. Montana's conditions as described are very similar to ours. Not enough moisture and an abundance of wind. We tried chem fallow for a while but did not work for us as it is to dry, and the weeds to hardened off in the summer to kill them, in particular, russian thistles. Our agronomist alerted us to some take-all this summer in a field that received the most glyphosate (thanks idaho) during our experiment, so we're back to rod weeding.

My question is what do you do for weed control in a cover crop, or is it not a concern with a good stand of cover? What bio types of covers are recommended for a perpetual drought area? F.W.I.W. rye is not even an option, I would hate to give my father a stroke/heart attack/aneurism by telling him he should intentionally plant rye:rolleyes:
 

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This was my first year attempting a cover crop. Needless to say it was a giant success and we are going from 80 acres to a 1000 acres of cover crops totally replacing my chemfallow. I use yellow peas they use nothing in the soil and do nothing but improve the soil. Even if it doesn't produce a bushel of grain it's still better than spraying bare dirt with roundup all summer long.
 

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I am continuos crop and our season is very short, so what I am doing will be diff but might get some ideas for ya. I start with a preharvest burn down to clean up any pigion grass or such that might be coming (also helps with straw management because as now the resido load is going to be higher) and as soon as the combine is out I hit it with the spreader. Now this past year I hit it with a Phillips rotary harrow and was much now pleased with my results. Spring time I will terminate it. I am going to try spreading on red clover after the wheat emerges next year and I also plan on having an air plain spread some sudan grass on just prior to me doing the pre harvest
 

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We've under seeded various crops to yellow clover most of the time we silaged it. One year we green manured it. It works well in drier areas with poor soil. We tried the red clover with our Xceed canola last year. I plan to spray it out and seed fall rye into the stubble. The clovers add a lot of organic matter, N and ground cover. The ground cover does a lot to conserve moisture. I put 60 ac of Tillage Radish in in June instead of chemfallow this past year. It is a field we silage often, the cattle are fed on it and we have spread manure on it. I figured the radish would fix any compaction issues and build my soil. We are usually too dry to get any small seeded crops growing after June but the last few years have been wet. A person needs to take advantage of the good years to build their soil. I'm a bit late to the party though.
 

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If you still have any doubts about whether or not it will work just commit to trying it on half a field or something. No need to bet the farm or create something to be worried about.

I don't have any practical experience with it yet but I planted a couple different mixes on one of my prevent plant fields this year.
I had 40acres of durum left in my air seeder so I seeded that out then put in about 40 acres of PulseUSA small seed mix/5acres of N builder and left 25 acres as chem fallow.
Seeded June 18 and sprayed out sometime in August since the radishes were bolting and I was becoming concerned with seeding through next year. I sprayed the durum out right before jointing. With the cover crops and the durum I saved one trip on the sprayer compared to the fallow. I will see how it pencils after next harvest.

I never hear anybody mention it but it sure makes you feel good to drive by your cover crop field when everything is flowering. It's hard to put a value on. Contrast that with the artificial desert that is chem fallow.

As others have said there are many resources online on youtube and the SARE website. It's hard to find much info for low moisture areas. Sometimes you just have to try it yourself.

I was at the ManDak zero tillage conference a couple weeks ago in Dickinson ND and there were a few farmers from MT that were doing cover crops and basically said they don't worry about there being enough water. They plant the cover (full term growing season) and the water will be there next spring. Plant them and it will come. So I guess it's been working for them so far.

Do you guys in Canada that are spreading clover in crop having any problems with insurance?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the replies I have planets peas a few time sprayed the pre emerge on them before they came out of the ground then spray them out mid June with just roundup it took for ever for them to die ...thought I had some resistant peas for awhile . Nice thing I never did have to spay that field again that year... My problem is about of the last say ten years my last significant rain fall of summer is usually around the the last week of June. 7 out of 10 years . My plan is I think plant some cover crop spray it out over say a months time . From early June to mid July. Take soil samples for moisture right after spray out and most importantly next spring or right before I plant winter wheat if I go that way... That way maybe tell on if spraying out early helps save. Moisture or it might tell me it might cost me another pass on the sprayer if I spray out cover crop to early?

I seen somewhere where some guy fitted a sprayer with several broadcast spreader on the boom to spread seed. I would like to try that after I spray out weeds especially in barley mostly clover for the following year . We use to under seed clover all the time in are barley when I was a kid in our barley..... If I tried that now and if I did not spray my crop so I would not kill the clover I would probable have a kochia or Russian thistle problem. That is why I would like to try it with my spray after I sprayed put the broad leafs .
 

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We've under seeded various crops to yellow clover most of the time we silaged it. One year we green manured it. It works well in drier areas with poor soil. We tried the red clover with our Xceed canola last year. I plan to spray it out and seed fall rye into the stubble. The clovers add a lot of organic matter, N and ground cover. The ground cover does a lot to conserve moisture. I put 60 ac of Tillage Radish in in June instead of chemfallow this past year. It is a field we silage often, the cattle are fed on it and we have spread manure on it. I figured the radish would fix any compaction issues and build my soil. We are usually too dry to get any small seeded crops growing after June but the last few years have been wet. A person needs to take advantage of the good years to build their soil. I'm a bit late to the party though.
What do you think about red clover compared to sweetclover? It's a bit wetter here on average so am wondering if the red is a better fit for soil improvement and possible hay if needed. As well it has some herbicide options in case things get out of control. I have some clay and solonetzic type soils which respond well to clover manures.
 

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Thanks for the replies I have planets peas a few time sprayed the pre emerge on them before they came out of the ground then spray them out mid June with just roundup it took for ever for them to die ...thought I had some resistant peas for awhile . Nice thing I never did have to spay that field again that year... My problem is about of the last say ten years my last significant rain fall of summer is usually around the the last week of June. 7 out of 10 years . My plan is I think plant some cover crop spray it out over say a months time . From early June to mid July. Take soil samples for moisture right after spray out and most importantly next spring or right before I plant winter wheat if I go that way... That way maybe tell on if spraying out early helps save. Moisture or it might tell me it might cost me another pass on the sprayer if I spray out cover crop to early?

I seen somewhere where some guy fitted a sprayer with several broadcast spreader on the boom to spread seed. I would like to try that after I spray out weeds especially in barley mostly clover for the following year . We use to under seed clover all the time in are barley when I was a kid in our barley..... If I tried that now and if I did not spray my crop so I would not kill the clover I would probable have a kochia or Russian thistle problem. That is why I would like to try it with my spray after I sprayed put the broad leafs .
I farm in North Central Washington. It is a winter wheat fallow area. We have been Direct Seeding for 4 years now and have begun to see the chem-fallow issues you mentioned. We tried about 20ac of cover crop last year. Used a warm season mix with legumes, buckwheat, and Sudan grass. Seeded it first of June, killed middle of July. Six weeks of growth is all. We mainly monitored the moisture, and when it looked like it began to fall we terminated. It was a very dry year here, and we still managed to get a good winter wheat stand behind it. It was easy to kill out, although we did not use clover, used peas and beans. Buckwheat was killer! Had a little squash in there and it grew well also... great root volume.

We are toying with the idea of using a low water use cash crop instead of cover crop or fallow. Really flies in the face of what works in our area, but I believe with 3 or 4 crops to rotate it may work where other continuous spring wheat on spring wheat have failed.

We are in a study the next 3 years with the NRCS here studying cover crops compared to fallow in our dry 6-12" rainfall zone. We get most all of our moisture in the winter, or at least October to April. We will be terminating cover crops in 4-6 weeks of growth to try and reduce moisture losses. We will be using moisture soil probes to get accurate measurements as well as rain gauges. We will be monitoring yield, biomass, and root mass. There are about 15 growers in 2 counties participating so we should find something out! Lol

Just seems like we aren't using all moisture that we store. We fallow to save moisture, and over the 2 year period to bring a winter crop to harvest we store about 20" of rainfall. If we were 100% efficient with that we should see at least 70bu/ac. We are only seeing about 65% of that on average. Tells me we are loosing it somewhere... my guess is mostly to evaporation in fallow, and soil disease from monoculture. We no use winter canola on about 25% of our cropped acres the last 4 years for rotation, so hopefully we will really start to see more efficiency from that break up. :D
 

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Andy... We are going to play with Millet this summer. Low water user, shallow rooting, short season. Then perhaps seed winter wheat after it whenever we get moisture.

I was also thinking of trying some spring peas, but none have been tried here. There is a history of winter peas, but they often dont survive the winter, and are short to harvest making it a challenge in our rocky fields.

There are some newer varieties of winter peas showing promise, especially high pod setting, but last winter they didnt make it. Have not heard if they made it through this winter. I suspect they did though as it was much warmer than the last.
 

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Denver, looked at the peas yesterday and they look great right now, but we still have winter left and no snow cover now. The water is running as bad as i have ever seen it, not much of the moisture is going in it is all running down the ditch. Hopefully it cools back off and we get some more snow. I would hate for it to get down to 20 below in the next couple of weeks that would wreck the peas.
 

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So, I gotta ask a noob question. What do you do with crops like millet, and yellow peas? I've inquired with several of our elevators, and not one person has any clue what to do with them in my area. The ONLY peas grown around here are for Del Monte seed production, and I can guarantee the ONLY millet grown here is the wild stuff you don't want. Are these animal feeds?
 

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Glad to hear the peas made it through this winter. Most of the water here made it in, but I am concerned as well that it may get real cold yet. I think we could be fine though... probably just in for a cold march.

As for millet, we are looking at proso millet for bird seed. Most is grown in Colorado, not sure where you are located. I'm looking into spring peas now. Going to talk to a guy tomorrow about the market for them. I know winter peas here are in a pool.
 

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I know there are peas grown in the Palouse that most likely go on a ship to Asia. That is where most of our peas in Western Canada go as well. China and India are big buyers. So the Pacific NW guys are at a significant advantage with that market.

Millet goes for birdseed like Denver said.


There are spring peas available as well that may be a better option if winter kill is a possibility. That would help to split up the workload as well -spread some acres to spring seeding rather than most of it in the fall.


Diversity is diversity whether it comes from a cover crop or one that is taken for harvest. Cover crops give an advantage in there is more nutrient cycling since nothing is removed from the field. Cash crops, well, they make cash!
 
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