Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Cover Crops Don't Pay"

This was posted on Crop Talk yesterday. I looked it up and even posted to it.

It does make you think. Do cover crops pay? I spent several thousand dollars in cover crop seed last year. Did I get my money back? The only way to know is do your own research and most farmers don't have time for that. The rely on someone else to do the testing and either accept it or reject it.

I have written and talked about cover crops quite often the past three years. I see the benefit of crop rotation and cover cropping helps me speed that up by planting a live grass crop ahead of legume soybeans or a brassica crop ahead of grass corn. I never did like bare fields in winter as much as green ones so I have raised wheat all my life. That is one winter cover crop we can sell in June and still have time to plant a soybean crop here. Otherwise I would sure put some radish and other covers into the wheat straw for the next spring's crop.

If I don't plant a cover crop, mother nature will provide one for me. Around here it is chickweed, purple dead nettle and cressleaf groundsel. They do cover the soil but they have to be sprayed or worked into the ground for the new crop seedbed. Since I don't have time to till and want to plant the first day I think it is ready, I have to kill the weeds. I would rather kill a crop I planted that will be a better selection ahead of the crop I intend to grow.

The fellow is in western Kansas where moisture is known to be short. Can cover crops hold moisture for the next crop without giving up yield? I think so. Perhaps he and others have not found that right mix yet to make it work for them. I would point them to Dr. Dwayne Beck whom I have heard speak of this many times and he proved to me you can enhance the dryland crop with cover cropping.

I think many farmers just don't want to mess with a cover crop. That is understandable and their choice. In today's farming that just seems like a lack of stewardship to me if I really want to leave the ground in better shape than I found it.

So what do you think? Do you think cover cropping pays?



  1. I encourage you to use more annual ryegrass, red clover, vetch, and peas and I say thank you very much. My neighbor thinks you should use more tillage radish.

  2. "The only way to know is do your own research and most farmers don't have time for that."

    That's a big part of the fun of farming IMO. The day I stop trying my own ideas and just go by what OSU or the local agronomists prescribe will be the day it ceases to be interesting to me. Tracking what works and what doesn't is the hard part. And replicating successes can be elusive!

    I second Budd's motion, BTW. Especially the annual ryegrass!

  3. Annual ryegrass is big in Indiana but it hasn't caught on here. Radishes have caught on much more than rye here but there were lots of acres of cereal rye cover in my area this year.

    I thank you both for your comments, I am still working on what to do and what to recommend this fall. The big thing is try something, try anything but some are a better match than others.