Cover crops and continuous no-till provide multiple potential benefits to soil health while also helping improve our streams and lakes. It doesn’t take much to get started either. For starters, we typically see hardy cereal grains planted after soybeans and corn because of the limited growing season after harvest. A nice full stand will help choke out weeds from establishing while also decreasing erosion. Cereal Rye is easier to terminate which helps producers adjust to new management techniques. However, once you see the benefits of these living covers, there’s no telling where you make take it. There is a lot of room for growth and innovation when it comes to these “armor crops”. They have the potential to prevent erosion, improve soil physical and biological properties, supply nutrients to the following crop, suppress weeds, improve soil water availability, and break pest cycles. Some cover crops are able to break into compacted soil layers, making it easier for the following crop’s roots to more fully develop. The actual benefits from a cover crop depend on the species composition and how long it’s left to establish.
On your grounds with small grains try planting a mix of brassicas, legumes, and grasses. The early harvest date gives you long days for mixes to establish and so they get you the maximum benefit. However, before you plant a cover crop, having a strategic plan for termination is vital. More mixes and thicker stands may be more difficult to control in the spring. For more information on seeding recommendations, terminating covers and cover crop logistics please contact District Agriculture Technician Jay Jordan at 330.451.7643.