This fall was a very difficult one for establishing cover crops after soybean and corn harvest. It was an extremely wet harvest and the temperatures dropped very early in late October/early November. Because of these factors by November 30th we had no cover crops planted on approximately 650 acres of ground. In a last ditch effort we loaded up our drill and seed tender and got to work planting on what little ground was dry enough. We managed to cover close to 300 acres and did not know if the rye would germinate and survive or rot and die in the cold damp soil. To say it was a hail-mary would be an understatement. We received our first snowfall just 2 days after we finished planting. I thought all hope was lost, however when we went to retrieve the drill from the field two weeks later we dug down through the snow to see what lied beneath. After a little digging we discovered that the rye had germinated and had a root approximately 1/2-1 inch long. We were ecstatic, today we dug up some more rye from the same field and the roots are now 2-3 inches long and has a shoot approximately 2-3 inches long. The rye has been growing even though it has either been under a blanket of snow or the ground has been frozen. What we learned from this is that it is almost never too late to plant a cover crop and there are no excuses for not using one, even after grain corn!
This winter we are looking into adding an air seeder box onto our drill to use as a dual purpose fertilizer system and a bio strip till option to be used when planting cover crops. A little background on the bio strip till concept, previously planted using precision planters or interseeding rigs. Cover crops chosen to scavenge nutrients and create a good seedbed such as radish and buckwheat or oats were planted in the same row configuration as the following crop, mainly corn. In the spring the corn would be no till planted directly into the bio strip till rows utilizing the benefits of the cover crop. The drawbacks that i could see from planting cover crops this way are that weeds could flourish in between the rows of cover crops. By adding a seeder box to our drill i plan on planting varieties of cover crop that are good for bio strip till in the rows where the corn planter will follow and use the box metering system on the drill to plant other varieties that will suppress weeds and fix nitrogen in the all the other rows. As we progress with integrating this concept into our system I will post more information and photographs on our progress.