Minnesota Cover Crops Offer Multiple Benefits For Producers
This is a picture I took about a week ago of a field that was planted to peas last spring. After the peas were harvested it was too late to plant a second crop like soybeans so I seeded a cover crop. It was so warm and dry I did not think the cover crop would germinate so I waited until early September. I planted 2 bushel of oats and 1.5 pounds of radishes an acre. It is amazing how tall the oats and radishes grew even though it was not planted until September!
About 10 days ago the Coop applied my anhydrous ammonia with a big chisel plow. You can see the tractor tracks and little strips where the anhydrous knives sliced through the cover crop. The goal was to have some residue to help protect the soil from erosion this fall, winter and early next spring. I achieved my goal! However, there were a couple other reasons I planted a cover crop?
My neighbor feeds cattle and he asked if he could haul manure on my field before I planted the cover crop. The oats and radishes would take up any available nitrate nitrogen, tie it up in the residue and then release it next summer for the corn crop. This prevents loosing the nitrate nitrogen if we get a lot of rain yet this fall or next spring!
The other reason I planted a cover crop was to aerate and till the soil. That was why I chose radishes along with the oats. Notice how big the radishes grew? That is a Bic pen next to the radishes. The radish tubers are about 10 inches long, then the tap root was much longer. It there was a compacted layer in the soil my thought was the radishes would penetrate the layer and break it up.
I know some farmers get very creative and plant a number of species of cover crops. That can get to be be very expensive. Planting 2 bushel of oats and 1.5 pounds of radishes only cost about $25 an acre. I disked the field before planting to kill any weeds. I did not have a drill so I borrowed the Coop's spinner fertilizer spreader to spread the oats and radishes. Then I ran over the field with a field cultivator set very shallow and Mother Nature did the rest!
Top 10 Favorite Sounds Heard in Minnesota