In the cover crop revolution, there have been so many surprises…most have been pleasant…and yet, the surprises keep on coming.
When we started, it was a slam dunk that a cover crop on winter fields would reduce erosion. That was, however, only the tip of the iceberg.
- Twenty years ago, people were surprised that annual ryegrass would survive a Midwest winter without constant snow cover.
- Fifteen years ago, the surprise was how deep the roots of annual ryegrass sink into soil (sometimes more than 5 feet), through layers of compaction.
- Farmers experimenting with annual ryegrass were more recently amazed about annual ryegrass’ ability to sequester N, thereby saving on fertilizer costs.
- Initially, the “best” method of planting the cover crop was with a drill. Now we find a majority of farmers broadcasting seed from a plane or high clearance spreader.
So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that farmers in Quebec, Canada, have been seeing increased corn and soybean yields when planting annual ryegrass IN THE SPRING, when the corn is up but with only 3 – 6 leaves showing.
Doubters are now becoming believers, and expert cover croppers in the Midwest are being advised to try this out on limited acreage.
Check out this power point presentation from earlier this year, where results of three years of replicated trials in corn and soybean show some convincing evidence that a companion cover crop can actually boost production that same year.