Planting Annual Ryegrass into Spring Corn Crop Has Risks

Earlier this week, I posted an article from Penn State, about the use of a newly developed seed planter that delivers fertilizer and herbicide at the same time. The idea is to save on fuel and field compaction by combining three purposes into one implement. What drew the attention of a couple of experts in cover crop use was not the equipment but, rather, the time of year the Penn State agronomists planted the cover crop…in the spring…six weeks after the emergence of corn.

Dan Towery is an agronomist and crop consultant in Indiana, leading that state’s effort to develop more education on cover crops while also launching a statewide network of farmers using best cover crop practices. Here are his comments:

I have had a couple of reports of this working in the very Northern part of the Corn Belt – Maine and Quebec.  But it is not without risk.  When it works,   the annual ryegrass stays short spindly until corn or soybeans start drying down and are harvested, then it takes off.  Herbicides used, timing of planting cover crops, weather turning hot and dry, etc ; all can cause issues.   I have a couple of guys who are going to try this on a very limited basis – hand seeding annual ryegrass when corn is about knee high.

Don Wirth, a cover crop seed grower from Oregon and pioneer in the use of annual ryegrass in the Midwest, had a similar reaction:

I think that seeding after corn is up may have some merit.  But I remember one year on Cotter  Wright’s farm (first year of on farm trial) he had a nice stand of ryegrass in August and by fall it was a bare field.  Weather has to be just right so that the summer crop does not compete with the ryegrass and kill it.  We saw this also on a farm south west of Lafayette, as well (CJ and Ward Wilkens). They Fall-planted ryegrass to early-on beans.  Did fine in corn but not the beans.

 

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