Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Discover the Cover

I found a new catchy phrase for cover crops at a Soil and Water display yesterday.  It's called discover the cover and yes we are discovering!

Cover crops are the hottest thing to hit the countryside since we started no-tilling.  It makes sense to me as "soil was meant to be covered" and "tillage is a catastrophic event in nature."

"Cover crops can be an integral part of a cropping system. Cover crops can be managed to improve soil health, as they help to develop an environment that sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes and beneficial insects.

Cover crops are typically planted in late summer or fall around harvest and before spring planting of the following year’s crops. Examples of cover crops include rye, wheat, oats, clovers and other legumes, turnips, radishes, and triticale. Planting several cover crop species together in a mixture can increase their impact on soil health. Each cover crop provides its own set of benefits, so it’s important to choose the right cover crop mixture to meet management goals."

The "tillage radish" lit the match to light the fire to discover the value of cover crops.  New Zealand brought us electric fencing, mob grazing and the tillage radish.  The tillage radish does things for the soil I can't describe in one blog.  Look back, and you will find many of my blogs on this subject.

I found a big healthy one on the edge of our sweetcorn patch yesterday.  We have the best looking garden in years, full of sweet corn and other vegetables with no purchased fertilizer or manure on.  Those radishes unlocked a bunch of needed nutrients to feed our crop.  It looks like I spread 150 lbs of nitrate on it but I didn't.

Now is prime time to sow radish and other covers.  Get a bag and start learning how they work.  Sow a field and compare to the non sown fields.  Split a field or alternate the passes if you really don't believe.  It will make a believer out of you in one year.

I need to discover the benefit of more diversity in the cover crop mix.  My friends who have tried cover crops say, "the more the merrier" in a cocktail mix.  It's been a challenge to cover crop ever acre I farm for 4 years in a row now.  The more radish I plant the better the soil gets.  You should see my 50 acre field that has rye and radish 3 years in a row.  That heavy rain went in with little runoff.

Discover the cover and discover your soil improving while your pocketbook grows larger.

Ed Winkle

4 comments:

  1. Hurtles here are asking Deere dealer how to plant them with your planter so you end up using the drill.

    Trying to get on bag you might as well forget about it.....gotta order everything in.

    Trying to get beans out, wheat planted then plant a cover crop you run outta time fast in October...radishes are my fav from all the data I have looked at and using the rye as a carrier in the drill. Also plan on mixing radish seeds in with the wheat when I plant my wheat.

    Speaking on whea..t planting a cover after wheat is alot easier and is grazeable too. This saved lots of guys last year here. One farmer didnt put out hay until Christmas because they flew on a cover crop and grazed there corn stocks and cover crop field after harvest.

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  2. Very well stated Ed

    keep up the good work.

    John

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  3. Brad, you can order one bag and many places you can pick one up at your local seed store. If you can't yet, you will be able to soon. They are that much in demand by farmers and gardeners.

    Thank you also, John. I will try to give you a call in the morning. I ran out of time today.

    Ed

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