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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