COVER CROP OBSERVATIONS


Sorry no photos this time…..

Just some scribblings from a beat up old cowboy…..

The last few days we have been involved in mixing and distributing some summer multi species cover crop seed. I have also been trying to get some seeded on my home place.

A few weeks back I seeded some home made cover crop seed which I broadcast into standing winter cover crop that had been grazed. I am here to tell you that was pretty much a failure. I think the birds and small animals were the biggest reason….In walking through the field to look for germination I found lot of hulls of all sorts and very little new plants….even the millet and sorghum did not seem to fare very well….

Just as an experiment, about the same time, I planted a handfull in a short row scratched in the dirt with a hoe in a pasture….last night I remembered to go check that . That row was up nearly a foot tall with good species diversity…..

I later broadcast another small lot with the same homemade mix and it was in a wet field which had been pretty well pucked when grazed by the bulls…I do have some germination and growth in that field but it is not overwhelming.

My conclusion is that these summer cover crops must have some soil to seed contact in order to germinate and flourish….

I have also been in contact with Green Cover Seed, our fall mix supplier….I specifically asked about the near failure of most of the cover crops broadcast over soybeans last fall….those cover crops were not a failure but they did not do anything until this spring…..unfortunately the crop behind beans was usually early corn…..this year we were blessed with a late and wet spring so a lot of those cover crops did have an opportunity to express themselves. In a more normal year they would have been sprayed and the fields planted in March. Corn here is 10 to 15 inches tall now. At this time last year corn was trying to tassel and it had quit raining and the drought had begun……. so every year is different in the challnges presented.

Alos last year we did not have frost until November….couple this with some fall rains ….which means soy beans still had a canopy cover and were still green and vibrant up until frost. So cover crop seed broadcast over beans laid where they landed without benefit of sunlight and competing with the beans. Below is what Kieth from Green Cover responded to me.

“As far as flying on to a growing crop – not much will work until the canopy opens up  – some years better than others.  It really comes down to sunlight hitting the growing plant – without that, not much will work.  The later it gets, the better cereal rye will work over wheat, oats, or barley.  Crimson clover and hairy vetch are the best legumes”.

I know broadcasting can work as I broadcast everything that was planted on my place last year….but I was not broadcasting over beans….I was broadcasting behind grazing…..On many fields I also might have mowed after broadcasting or run a drag (an old tractor Tire) over the field….but on many I simply broadcast after grazing….in my last post you can see in the photos that I had decent results….
this week I have put seed down on two parts of one field….I cut the field in half and reseeded each half after grazing with the bulls….I wish I had the time to have taken a photo but I did not. This is the field where I had a fall cover crop and it had gotten about six feet tall….The Rape and Turnips had created a sea of yellow blossoms and hidden the clover and small grain and grasses. So I grazed it….The bulls left a lot of biomass which is good but they grazed in there for quite a few days as well.

I do not have any type of planting equipment….The day I wanted to do the first half of the field I did not even have my broadcast seed bag. I do have and old spike tooth aerator and it has a distribution box on it but it never seeded properly and the seed rate adjustment had been stuck for years. I fooled with it until I got the adjusment to at least move….then I hooked this contraption behind my Bush hog and mowed…seeded and aerated in one pass….

update here….on 5/24/2013 I have multiple species seed germination….it is too early to identify but I have single shoot grasses and dicot leaves germinating…planted on Sunday and shoots up to an inch tall on Friday….I am tickled…

The second half of the field I had my broadcast seeder so I broadcast and then mowed and pulled the aerator over it….I hope some of it will come up….I really need to find some type of seeder that I can afford for small acerage. Anyhow we will keep on putting out seed and seeing what happens.
Also in terms of fall cover….at my place Kieths statement above is correct….the ceral rye and the Lana vetch and the crimson clover were the stars of my cover crops….and I put out a lot more wheat than I did rye because it was easier to find and pay for….but the rye was superior….
I have rye and vetch that is so tall the horses do not want to go into it….but they will…and they are trampling down as much as they are eating which is good for the soil….I will move them and mow that paddock this weekend.

I have winter peas that have not yet been grazed….It is a Multi Species Planted field where the Rape and Turnips did not take over…..The Crimson Clover and the peas have been a spring delight….The winter peas are now providing the show….they are beautiful when they bloom….

One more thing….these cover crops are excellent for wildlife….I have quail on my little place and have not had any quail for over 25 years. I have had a covey of eight all spring until they broke up into pairs for nesting….Also had a turkey nest within 100 feet of the house….the dogs flushed her about two weeks ago….unfortunately Apache proudly brought me a dead turkey poult…..I hope some of them survived….

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Photos around Pipe Dream Farm in mid May 2013


To view any photo in a larger size simply click on the photo and then use your back button or arrow to return to the blog.

Saturday morning I walked around with camera in hand just to try to illustrate why I love living here…again no particular order….just shots from my life….this first is the current view from the road looking in toward the barns….this area will be about 12 grazing paddocks for the horses if it ever dries out enough to graze….we have had over 2.1 inches of rain this week not counting the storm last night…I have not been out yet to check the gauge this morning….there is a drainage running across those fields and when it gets wet it stay wet for a while…..

I have switched the horses and the bulls and the horses are back in their normal place at least for the summer….they are also back to three and four day paddocks now.

a 12 paddocks when ever it dries enough

The bulls went into the other cover crop field on Friday night…..it was so tall that I had to bush hog a lane to put up the division fences…the bulls had been in it for about 18 hours when I took these photos….now these are 18 month old bulls that weight 1400 to 1500 lbs and the rape is over five feet tall….they have simply walked down a lot of it…which is good….lot of clover and turnips and wheat as well as grass.

a 18 month old 1400 lb bulls

Below is a shot of my bale bean experiment….these are straw bales that have been setting out all winter. I planted butter beans in them a couple weeks ago. It is finally warm enough that they are beginning to sprout. The ones I put in the soil have not yet sprouted.

a bale beans starting to come up

Here is a shot of the blackberries I planted two years ago….I love blackberries and decided that I wanted to have some….these have taken off this years and are putting up new canes all oveer…..

a blooming two year old blackberries

This time the bulls are eating the rape seed….when they last grazed rape they sort of ignored the rape all together….there is lots of rape seed out there….I suspect there will be rape on this farm for years now….

a bulls are eating the rape seed

This is the strip I had to bush hog thru the cover to put up a portable grazing fence. I had to stand up on the tractor to see where I was going….I had to start grazing this becasue the boss was starting to fuss about a snake sanctuary right next to the house….similarly had to regraze the cover crop plot in front of the house where the horses now are….next I have to take the horses to the already grazed field behind the house again because of the snake sanctuary….she is messing up my grazing schedule…..

a bush hog a strip to put up the fence

This is the field in the corner where I grazed the horses for 14 or 16 days in April in strips….it is already 18 inches tall again….It will be rank by the time we get back to it.

a filed grazed 14 days in April

More Blackberries….these are the Kiowas that I planted last year….looking forward to a few berries from them….

a Kiowa berries planted last year

Last fall I broadcast some seed on most paddocks immediately after the last grazing….I was still boradcasting seed after Christmas….This is one that I hit fairly early with Crimson clover….

a paddock broadcast with crimson clover

this one was broadcast with Lana Vetch….

a paddock broadcast with lana vetch

Perkins and Star Baby regrazing the cover crop lot that the bulls were in a few weeks ago….

a Perkins and Star Baby

Here is a paddock boradcast with Rye and Lana Vetch

a rye and lana vetch

Austrian Winter peas blooming are beautiful

a winter peas blooming are pretty

Apache finally stood still long enough for me to get a shot of his new haircut…..

apaches new haircut

Blackberries planted two years ago

This is a part of the normal routine for Dee Dee and Apache….they run and wrestle and sleep and eat….Marie is always worried that Apache will hurt Dee Dee, but Dee Dee is actually the meaner and if she gets mad will eat him up, but Apache is the stronger and if he gets too rough Dee Dee will put him in his place….

dogs at play