My cover crops are growing

April is almost over and the wet and cool weather has everyone feeling like they are a little behind in their field work already!! It looks like we have a decent stretch of weather coming through the first few days of May. If you drove by your fields and thought to yourself ‘my cover crops are turning green that’s nice,’ it’s time to check them again. With the recent moisture and now a warming trend in the temperatures, winter rye is getting ready to GROW!!

  • If the crop is at 8 – 10 inches in height and you are not sure of when you can set it back with manure, tillage, or planting in the next 10 days, you need to start thinking of a way to terminate it before it becomes a problem.
  • If you’re planting beans, it will not be a problem. You can routinely no till into standing rye then spray and have a super bean crop.
  • If you are no-tilling corn into standing rye, in most cases as long as you terminate (spray herbicide) immediately after planting it will not be a problem although it may tie up some nitrogen as it begins to decompose (as much as 70# if rye is mature).
  • If you are planning on conventional tillage, you need to watch your cover crop carefully or you will spend considerable time fighting with it in early June trying to get it to lay down enough to plant you corn into.

If you are planning to get out and apply manure, please pay attention to your setbacks and buffers. Work towards tilling the manure in immediately after application as it will retain 50% more nitrogen then leaving it sitting on the surface for a few days (the ammonium nitrogen will volatilize quickly on the surface and be lost to the atmosphere). Its money in your pocket and you have to till it anyway. It will also mitigate runoff concerns on slopes or in case of a major rain event. If you want to test this theory split a field and try immediately working the manure in and waiting. Call UVM Extension and we will do a PSNT test for you and show you the savings in nitrogen.

On another note, UVM Extension will be taking delivery of the Hagie Highboy Seeder this week and we will be making several modifications to it to make it a more precise applicator of cover crop seeds. Please feel free to contact us if you have interest learning more about cover cropping, the highboy machine, or in having us do demonstrations on your farm, 802-524-6501.

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