Cover Crop Options for 2015

There are many opportunities to include cover crops in the rotation. The goal is to keep the soil covered with at least 30% crop, cover crop or residue, 100% of the time. A second goal is to have living roots in the soil as much as possible. Research at University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus has shown that planting a cover crop provides a benefit, even if the growth is limited. So consider the options below and find a way to reap the benefits of cover crops.

Interseeding into Corn

There is a fair bit of interest in interseeding cover crops into standing corn. Different seeding times have been tried from the five to six leaf stage of corn to tassel stage to when the canopy begins to open up late summer or early fall. The most success in Ontario has been with seeding annual ryegrass and/or a clover at the 5 to 6 leaf stage of corn. Some growers have developed equipment to plant the cover crop or to move some soil after broadcasting the seed. Most broadcast the seed. Seeding rates are generally: 15 to 25 lbs/ acre for ryegrass. A good general rule of thumb for broadcasting cover crop seed is to add 20% to the drilled in rate.

It is important to think about the herbicide program when planning to interseed into corn. Refer to table 1 for a listing of herbicides that can reduce the success of the cover crop.

Table 1: Potential for injury to ryegrass and clover cover crop interseeded in corn.

HerbicideAnnual ryegrass Clover
Converge XTSafeinjured
CallistoSome injury – some stand reductionInjured **
EngardeSome injury – some stand reductionInjured**
Integrity – Set up rateSafeNot injured
Integrity – full rateInjury – stand reductionSome injury
PrimextraInjury – stand reductionSome injury
LumaxInjury – stand reduction**Injured**
Treflan/ProwlInjury – some stand reduction*Some injury
FocusInjury  – stand reduction**Slightly injured
Frontier MarksmanSome injury – some stand reduction **Some injury

(*) Indicates severity of damage, more * = more damage

Source: Dr. Darren Robinson, University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus, project funded under GF2

Some growers have interseeded cereal rye into corn as the crop begins to mature or even after harvest and have achieved enough growth late fall and early spring to provide some benefit. The rye was seeded at 60 lbs/ac.

Cover Crops Following Cereals and Late Summer Harvested Crops

See the article Cover Crops Following Cereals and Late Summer Harvested Crops on Field Crop News for more information on cover crop options in this time frame

Cover Crop options in Soybeans

When winter wheat as a crop is not an option after soybeans, consider seeding a winter cereal as a cover crop. The most common option is rye but any winter cereal will do such as wheat, barley or triticale. Broadcast 60 lbs/ac at 10% leaf drop or drill it in immediately following harvest.