Cover Crops are Working in Iowa

Cover crops are working in Iowa!

While that may not mean much to my eastern corn belt friends it means a lot in Iowa and the upper Midwest.

Working with Sarah Carlson from Practical Farmers of Iowa and Tom Kaspar from ARS at Ames, Iowa, we’ve been attempting to identify what cover crops will be most compatible with common Iowa farming practices – in particular the use of longer season corn hybrids and soybean varieties, as well as an abundance of corn after corn (CAC) management strategies. Establishing cover crops like radishes and annual ryegrass into these situations hasn’t proved to be easy.

Aerial application of cover crops (annual ryegrass, crimson clover, radishes, etc.) into corn in Ohio and Indiana has been very successful. However, in Iowa it has not worked with quite as much success.  Cereal rye may actually be the best alternative. While it may seem a bit “simple” to plant mainly cereal rye most years, there are significant benefits to using cover crop rye in a corn after corn scenario, mainly because it has been shown to reduce Goss’s wilt.

September 5, 2011 planted Annual Ryegrass compared to Winter Cereal Rye in central Iowa in April 2012.  Note the dramatic difference in winterhardiness.

September 5, 2011 planted Annual Ryegrass compared to Winter Cereal Rye in central Iowa in April 2012. Note the dramatic difference in winterhardiness even after a very mild winter.

Sarah commented that besides using more winterhardy species for greater success, it is also very important to not interseed the cover crops into green corn or green soybeans.  She says, “Pushing radishes with aerial seeding into a dense, dark corn or soybean canopy is unsuccessful.”

But if the right cover crop is used in Iowa and managed well then covers work very well!  Rod Swoboda from Wallaces Farmer published an article written by Sarah Carlson reflecting work that was overseen in Iowa by PFI.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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