Know which cover crops you can plant late and which you can't

Know which cover crops you can plant late and which you can't

Corn Illustrated: Dates are past for seeding some cover crops, there's still time to seed others.

If soil health and seeding cover crops to improve soil health hasn't caught on in your area yet, expect that it will catch fire soon.

Related: Get to know the 'Cover Crop Guy'

When it does and you decide to try cover crops, one of the first questions that comes up is how late you can plant them. As those who have worked with cover crops already for a while know, it largely depends upon the type of cover crop that you're seeding, and what you're trying to achieve.

No matter where you live, Traci Bultemeier says cereal rye is one that you likely still have time to plant this year.

Germinate and survive: Cereal rye may handle later planting better than most other cover crops.

"It's well adapted as a cover crop and fall seeding to give various benefits, such as winter erosion control, organic matter increase and a chance for winter manure applications," she says. She is an accounts manager with DuPont Pioneer, Ft. Wayne, Ind., and a Certified Crop Adviser.

Some sources recommend planting it by Oct 10. However, anecdotal evidence from growers says they have planted it well into November and still obtained satisfactory results, with good growth the following spring.

Bryan Overstreet, a Purdue University Extension ag educator in Jasper County, Ind., agrees that with the window rapidly closing for many potential cover crops, rye might be the best choice now.

"Cereal rye is perhaps the best option to establish late compared to wheat, ryegrass or other species," he says. He is also a CCA.

Related: Cover crops are silver lining at epicenter of Indiana flood damage

To make rye work at this point in the season, seed about one-inch deep, and obtain good seed-to-soil contact, he says. Seed it with a drill or planter if possible. If you broadcast it on the surface, establishment and survival will likely be poor, Overstreet says.

As you get into November and soil temperatures are still warm enough for some fall growth beyond germination, chances are that this crop could help hold the soil in place to reduce erosion, he says. It may also suppress weeds, scavenge nitrogen and play a supporting role in obtaining good weed control ahead of next year's soybean crop.

For more on selecting a cover crop, see USDA's Cover Crop chart.


Thinking about a cover crop? Start with developing a plan. Download the FREE Cover Crops: Best Management Practices report today, and get the information you need to tailor a cover crop program to your needs.


TAGS: USDA Extension
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