Difficulty establishing cover crops is viewed by some farmers as one of the reasons of why NOT to plant cover crops. Aerial application has been viewed as “guess-work flying” by some producers because of some poor application jobs in previous years.
However, since the 2011 crop was planted late because of record setting rain in the Eastern Corn Belt, aerial application of cover crops makes the most sense for producers.
In previous posts we have seen how aerial applicators have had opportunities for better training so the “guess work” will be replaced by “art-work” when applying the cover crops. I’m confident the need for application accuracy has reached the ears of the pilots. I recently saw corn and soybean fields in northwestern Indiana where the cover crops were flown on beautifully.
However, I did notice emergence differences in the fields. The cover crop mixture of annual ryegrass, crimson clover, and radish was aerially applied on September 12.
The mix was coming up much faster and more evenly in the corn field than in the soybean field. It was very easy to see the radishes and ryegrass in the corn field. The corn was “dry up to the ear” at application, and the cover crop looked great.
In the soybean field we had to look for a while before we found anything other than radishes emerging. I understand that the soybeans were at least 50% yellow leaf, and since all of the leaves are off now, that makes sense.
Since applying the cover crops the farm had received over 4 inches of rain in numerous rain events.
So, what did I take from this farm visit?
- Be patient with emergence of cover crops in drilled or 15″ row soybeans – even if they are applied at the correct time.
- Always apply the cover crops at the right stage of growth if interseeding into a cash crop.
- Cover crop radishes germinate at least as fast as annual ryegrass and both are faster to germinate than crimson clover when aerial applied (seen over multiple fields in multiple years).
- The myth that you cannot aerially apply radishes or crimson clover is not true – it’s a myth!